KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Oklahoma State was one of just two teams in the Big 12 Conference to win a game against each league opponent. So while the Cowboys head into the Big 12 Conference Championship as the three seed, they have one question on their mind.
“Why not us?” sophomore forward Michael Cobbins said.
OSU, which picked up more road conference victories this season than in the previous three years combined, have plenty of reason to be optimistic.
The 14th-ranked Cowboys were the only team this year to go in Allen Fieldhouse, home of the Kansas Jayhawks, and walk out victorious. Oklahoma State is also the only one of the top four seeds in the conference tournament coming off a win in the regular season finale.
But that’s not to say the road won’t be hard — far from it. The first hurdle is overcoming a Baylor team that has matched up well with OSU — holding the Cowboys to their lowest point total in a 64-54 win in Waco, Texas, then taking Oklahoma State to overtime in Stillwater where OSU held on for a 69-67 win at the buzzer.
“It definitely was ugly here, no question. There wasn’t many points scored, especially early,” Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said. “It’s two physical teams. Baylor’s a more physical team than you think — very physical defensively, because they can protect the rim.”
The Bears come in the championship looking for blood, as they likely need to win the tournament — or make as much noise as possible — to secure an NCAA berth. They already come in feeling confident with an 81-58 bludgeoning of top-seeded Kansas in the regular season finale.
Baylor players may also be looking to come out and prove people — in particular the Big 12 coaches — wrong after leaving point guard Pierre Jackson, the conference’s leading scorer at 19.3 points per league game, off the All-Big 12 first team. The only other Bears player to earn recognition was freshman center Isaiah Austin, who was named to the All-Big 12 third team as well as the Big 12 All-Rookie team.
Smart honored again
Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart was named on Wednesday as the Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Year.
Smart was named the Big 12 Freshman and Player of the Year by both the conference coaches and voting media, national freshman of the year by Sporting News, a first-team All-American by the same publication and was named a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award for college basketball’s top point guard. He is also a finalist for the Naismith Player of the Year Award, the John R. Wooden Player of the Year Award and the Oscar Robertson National Player of the Year Trophy
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Two games between Oklahoma and Iowa State produced nearly identical outcomes. The home team imposed its will and rolled to convincing victories each time.
So, what does that mean for today’s Big 12 tournament quarterfinal meeting between the fourth-seeded Sooners and the fifth-seeded Cyclones?
“I would imagine a neutral site with two pretty even teams would turn into a pretty even battle,” OU coach Lon Kruger said.
That could be the case when they meet at 11:30 a.m. today at Sprint Center. If other tendencies from the regular season carry over. It should not take long to figure which team is primed to advance.
What epitomized the outcome of the previous OU-Iowa State games were the opening minutes. The games weren’t decided in the first 10 minutes, but the aggressor was easily identified.
The Cyclones (21-10) connected on their first four 3-point attempts when OU (20-10) traveled to Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa, Feb. 4, and held a double-digit lead throughout the final 30 minutes. OU never came close to catching up in the 83-64 loss.
There was a lesson OU learned from that game: slow starts are a recipe for disaster. The Cyclones’ deep roster of 3-point shooters can rack up points too quickly for large deficits to be made up. Iowa State has made 309 3-pointers this season — twice OU’s total of 151.
“If we don’t come out and play hard from the jump ball we could be looking at being down 19-2 at the first TV timeout because Iowa State is that type of team,” OU point guard Sam Grooms said. “We have to go out and play as hard as we can and understand that we cannot give up easy shots. We have to take every possession as serious as we can. If we do all those things, I think we’ll be successful at the end of the day.”
— John Shinn