January 24, 2009

Roping a Rebound? OSU looks for win at NU

It's said that a person can be judged by how they handle adversity.

The same goes for sports teams. And in the case of Oklahoma State basketball, today should be a test of just where the Cowboys are mentally after a maddening loss to Missouri on Wednesday which saw the Pokes down big only to make a furious comeback and lose by two points.

Home losses in the Big 12 are bad enough, but now OSU is 1-2 in conference play (12-5 overall) and needing to turn things around before the L's start to mount too much. But after a gut-wrenching finish against the Tigers, just how does a team rebound?

"It's not easy," said head coach Travis Ford. "Our backs are against the wall and I told our guys we've got to figure some things out. You better humble yourself because we played the first 30 minutes like we had accomplished something. As if we've actually done something. Yeah we've won some good games, we've played hard but we've got to be a group of overachievers."

A nice way to rebound would be a road conference win. OSU takes on Nebraska today at 3 p.m. inside the Devaney Center and a victory here would help to erase the home loss to Mizzou. The game is set for a Big 12 Network telecast (KOCB-11 in Oklahoma City and Stillwater; KJRH-2 in Northeastern Oklahoma).

The Huskers (12-5, 2-2) have had their share of struggles as well, losing at Iowa State and Oklahoma. In the game against the Sooners, NU was competitive most of the way, taking a 38-32 lead into halftime before OU took control in the second half and won 72-61.

This would appear to be a nice matchup for OSU. There isn't a player in NU's starting five over 6-8 in height, with one starter, guard Cookie Miller checking in at 5-7. They are also projected to start four guards and a forward, mirroring what OSU should start. They're led on the scoreboard by guard Steve Harley, who averages 12.2 points per game. The only other player averaging in double figures this year is guard Ade Dagunduro, putting up 10.6 ppg.

As a team, the Huskers are anemic on offense and strong on defense. They average 66.6 ppg while allowing only 56.8 points a contest. That should contrast in an interesting way with OSU, which is reverse. Right now, the Cowboys score 86 points a game (leads the Big 12) but allow 74.1 ppg.

In short, one strength will beat another - but which one? Either way, Ford says the Pokes will have to turn in complete performances in order to have a chance at wins this season.

"We've got a lot of weaknesses on our basketball team that we've got to cover up. And the only way we can do that, the only way we've had any success is to play hard for 40 minutes and I don't know if, again, Missouri just jumped on us and were so fast our guys were just shocked, but I don't know what it was.

"Our backs are against the wall. This game will hopefully humble these guys a little bit and make them hungrier, hopefully, because it only gets tougher."

He's not kidding, either. After this one, OSU heads home for the first Bedlam of the season on ESPN's Big Monday. Next Saturday, they head to college station in a rematch against Texas A&M. After that is a home game against Texas Tech (Feb. 4) before a trip to defending national champion Kansas (Feb. 7). What's ahead is why a win today is vital - it definitely doesn't get any easier.

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