February 25, 2009

Rocky Road? Pokes must win at Colorado

With a shot at making the NCAA Tournament, the last thing Oklahoma State needs is for Colorado to double its conference win total.

That's what would happen with a Cowboy loss to the Buffaloes tonight. CU is 9-17 on the season and 1-11 in Big 12 play. Losers of seven straight and 11 of their last 12, the Buffs are having a rough go of things. Even so, this recent stretch for them has had some near-misses, including heartbreakers to Kansas State, Kansas, Oklahoma and Nebraska. Given that, it wouldn't be a stretch to say this is a trap game for OSU, a team which has improved lately and needs to win tonight to keep hope alive. The game is set for a 9:30 p.m. start at the Coors Events Center in Boulder.

After getting blasted at Texas two weeks ago, OSU has won three straight and has put itself in position to fight for an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. A win over CU would get them that much closer to having a shot at a bid. Is that realistic? With OSU's solid RPI and a shot at nine conference wins, history suggests yes. But a loss to the Buffs would likely prove fatal to those hopes.

So what are the Cowboys going up against tonight? Aside from the elevation, guard Cory Higgins proves to be the biggest challenge. The 6-5 Californian guard is averaging 17.5 points per game and 5.7 rebounds per game. Guard Dwight Thorne puts up 12.8 ppg while forward Austin Dufault is good for 9.2 ppg and four boards.

As far as team stats go, the Cowboys should have a clear advantage with the ball. The Cowboys are averaging 83.3 ppg while CU is only posting 63.6 ppg. The Buffaloes' defense is better overall (66.3 vs. 76.1 ppg) but has slipped some in conference play (69.5; OSU's stands at 81.2 ppg). The Buffs average 14.1 turnovers a game while OSU chimes in with 12.8.

The history of this series is interesting. While conventional wisdom would suggest OSU having a solid hold of things, that hasn't been the case of late. Overall, OSU leads the all-time series 58-47. Since the formation of the Big 12, the Pokes hold a slim 7-6 edge. CU is 31-16 in Boulder against OSU. The last time to Pokes went to Boulder resulted in an 89-77 loss in 2007.

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