February 13, 2008

A Bear of a Fight for OSU

Oklahoma State has never lost three-straight games to Baylor on the hardwood in the history of the series between the two schools.

Tonight in Stillwater, the Cowboys look to avoid a third consecutive loss to the Bears.

Last March, the Pokes went to Waco and lost to Baylor, 86-82. Just a few weeks ago, OSU again traveled to the Brazos and again lost, 79-71. Only twice before in the entire history of the series (which dates back to 1919) has OSU even lost two straight to the Bears, in 1958, 1959 and a pair of times during the 1972 calendar year.

Good thing the game this evening (7 p.m., no TV; Cowboy Sports Network, including XM 242) is inside Gallagher-Iba Arena, huh? Not so fast. The last two contests in Stillwater between the teams have been decided by four points or less. The good news there is that the Pokes (11-12 overall, 2-7 Big 12) won both of those. But this is a different year and both teams seem to be heading in opposite directions. Typically the doormat, the Bears (17-6, 6-3) have improved greatly as the season has worn on, while the Cowboys, typically a conference championship contender, are near the bottom of the league.

So, in a season which has seemingly cratered, OSU looks to rebound and defend Mr. Iba's white maple floor against BU. Scott Drew's bunch has been playing pretty well, already passing their entire win total from last season (15). And while they have lost three of their past four games, two of those L's were against the top teams in the Big 12 - Texas (80-72 on Feb. 2 in Austin) and Kansas (100-90 last Saturday in Lawrence) - so they're coming off a rough stretch. But make no mistake, these Bears have claws. Led by Curtis Jerrells (15.1 points per game), the Bears present a fairly balanced scoring attack (four starters average point totals in double-figures) and have a knack for hitting the outside shot. So far this season, BU is 38 percent from the three-point line. LaceDarius Dunn (42.7 percent), Aaron Bruce (41.1) and Tweety Carter (37.8) all excel at the long-range shot, with Bruce ranking third and fourth all-time in three-pointers made and three-point field goal percentage, respectively.

While the Bears are looking for a road win to bolster their possible NCAA Tournament resume, the Cowboys are just looking for consistency and improvement. OSU broke out of a six-game skid last week with a 64-63 win over Colorado in Stillwater, but were knocked back down over the weekend at Kansas State, where the Wildcats drubbed the Cowboys, 82-61. In that game, the Pokes managed to survive the first half and were down only five going into the break, before the offense disappeared early in the second, KSU went on a run and OSU failed to hit a field goal in the first 3:30. The deficit then was 13 and the game started getting out of hand for the Cowboys, as they eventually ended up with 24 turnovers. Michael Beasley had 23 points and 13 rebounds for the Wildcats.

With only six games to go after tonight, picking up a win at home against the Bears is absolutely vital. Not for post-season hopes, but for pride. With tough road games remaining against Texas A&M, Missouri and Texas, and with rough home dates against Kansas and Oklahoma, probable W's are scarce the rest of the way. While a win tonight might not do anything to help get to the post-season, it can serve as a temporary relief against the mounting losses.

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