March 6, 2010

Home Finale: OSU faces Huskers

The last time Oklahoma State played on Mr. Iba's white maple, the Cowboys downed the mighty Kansas Jayhawks.

It was the biggest win of the season and officially ended any "what if" talk about OSU appearing in the NCAA Tournament. The Pokes are a lock now - thanks in part to the fans, so said head coach Travis Ford.

"It got as loud as I've ever been in an arena," Ford said after the win. "Anywhere. And I've been in some loud ones as a player and as a coach. I've never been to an atmosphere that got as loud as it was in our arena (against KU)."

It was likely the first time coach Ford has ever truly experienced what Gallagher-Iba Arena is all about. Now he knows - and he likes what he heard and saw. But he might have been clued in the night before, when coach Ford and the team visited students camping out - about 25 tents in all, he said.

"They had been out there since Wednesday night, kids camping out and wanting to get the best seats," he said. "We hung out with them (Friday) night and hung out with them last night, took them pizzas and just talked to them. You could feel it, just talking to them, what a big game this was and what it meant to them as students camping out last night. Then, to walk in and see a packed house."

That packed house served well as sixth man, helping confuse and distract the Jayhawks.

"It makes the biggest difference in the world for our team," Ford said. "It is a huge, huge lift for our basketball team. It gives our team confidence, it gives our team adrenaline and there's no question it's one of the best atmospheres in all of college basketball when it's like that."

OSU fans have one final chance to make the old lady rowdy this season against the Huskers, a far easier opponent. NU comes to Stillwater in last place in the Big 12 Conference. After a murderer's row of a schedule recently, this sounds like a nice way to finish off the regular season before the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City next week. The game is set for a 12:30 p.m. tip-off and will be televised on your local Big 12 Network affiliate (KOCB-34 in Oklahoma City and Stillwater; KJRH-2 in northeastern Oklahoma).

The Cowboys (20-9 overall, 8-7 Big 12) come back home after a tough loss to Texas A&M on Wednesday. The Huskers (14-16, 2-13) have played horribly this season and are losers of eight of their past nine games. An 83-79 win over Texas Tech at home on Feb. 27 is the only high point in recent weeks, but that was followed up on Tuesday was an 81-68 loss to Colorado in Lincoln.

The Huskers come to town on "Obi Muonelo Day," also known as "Senior Day" or "The Last Chance To See James Anderson Hoop It Up Inside Gallagher-Iba Arena Day." OSU officially says goodbye to the Edmond senior, who has served as the emotional heart of the team the past few years. And OSU unofficially says goodbye to Anderson, a Junction City, Ark., junior who has NBA first round written all over him. Currently, NBADraft.net has him going No. 12 in the draft to the Memphis Grizzlies, which would keep him close to home and alma mater.

As for a look at the opponent, there's just not much to say. The Huskers are led by senior guard Ryan Anderson, who has averaged 11.0 points per game and 5.2 rebounds per game this season. Freshman center Jorge Brian Diaz has 8.8 ppg and 4.1 rpg. The other probable starters all score only seven points an outing. NU's strength is likely its outside shot, as the team shoots 39.7 percent from behind the arc. But that doesn't mean they score a lot. In fact, the Huskers are last in the conference in scoring at 66.7 ppg. They come in at 158th in the RPI ratings.

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