December 20, 2008

In The City: Pokes host URI in All-College

While the state of Oklahoma is always wrapped up in bowl game mania this time of year, there's always a little appetizer of college basketball in Oklahoma City for hoops junkies: the All-College Classic.

The 73rd edition of the nation's oldest holiday event features Bedlam rivals Oklahoma State and Oklahoma in two different games on the evening. First up, the Cowboys take on Rhode Island at 6:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN Classic. Ron Franklin and Fran Fraschilla will announce the game. In the nightcap, the Sooners host Virginia Commonwealth on ESPN2.

OSU (7-3) comes to OKC with some momentum after a very nice 104-74 win over Mercer Wednesday night in Stillwater. In that one, the Pokes played solid defense and opened things up on offense and cruised after a tight opening 10 minutes. James Anderson led the Cowboys with 20 points, with 18 of those coming from behind the arc. Obi Muonelo had 19 points while Terrel Harris posted 18. Three other Pokes scored in double figures in the win over the Bears. OSU shot 45 percent from the field and 43 percent from three-point land.

But the defense played a big part in the victory. OSU forced Mercer into 25 turnovers leading to 41 points. Head coach Travis Ford said that pressure helped on both sides of the ball. But more importantly, the team could be turning a corner.

"I started to see a glimpse of them buying into the system of our team," Ford said. "Once you get a few turnovers it should become like a pack of wolves and they should want more and more. (Wednesday night) when we had some success they started working harder instead of embracing the success and relaxing. We really started pushing and wanting more success. This was a good game for us."

The win was much-needed for the Pokes, who came into the game losers three of their previous five games - all on the road. Now OSU focuses on the Rams, who Ford knows fairly well from his days at Massachusetts. The two schools are big rivals and the first-year coach of the Cowboys knows what his squad will be up against tonight. In fact, Ford is 4-2 against the Rams. URI (8-3) makes its first trip to The City since the NCAA Tournament in 1998. That season, the Rams were the No. 8 seed in the Midwest Region and beat Murray State and upset Kansas at the then-Myriad, now Cox Center.

So far in 2008-09, the Rams have held their own, winning three of their last four games. Only one of their losses was by more than three points. And in what would have been great tournament resume material, URI went to Cameron Indoor Stadium on Nov. 16 and almost upset Duke, losing 82-79. Their other two losses were to Villanova (78-65) and Providence (66-65). The Rams are led by Jimmy Baron, a 6-3 guard who is averaging 18 points per game. Forward Kahiem Seawright is putting up 14.4 ppg and guard Keith Cothran follows closely with 14.3 ppg. The Rams only have one player over 6-9 in height, center Will Martel, who is 7-0.

While the name of the opponent isn't flashy, this is a good matchup for the Pokes in the All-College this season. It's a quality opponent that has a chance to compete in the Atlantic 10 and make the Big Dance this year, after going 21-12 and appearing in the NIT last year. For the Pokes, it would be a nice win and give the team an added boost going into the final non-conference games at Gallagher-Iba Arena after Christmas.

...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now!