Cowboys' rebound has them itching for a rematch
BY KELLY HINES World Sports Writer
Saturday, February 16, 2013
2/16/13 at 6:59 AM
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STILLWATER - What a difference a month makes.
An uninspired loss at Oklahoma on Jan. 12 gave Oklahoma State its third defeat in four games and drove many disgruntled fans to message boards and social media, where they called for the firing of coach Travis Ford.
That seems like ancient history. Now, the Cowboys are on a six-game win streak, have climbed back into the Associated Press Top 25 and are in the mix for a Big 12 title.
Asked what has changed, guard Markel Brown said: "Knowing that we can win. Going out, playing hard, playing for the university and not giving up on each other.
"We want to win this league. We feel like we can, and we're in a great position to do it. We just want to finish out strong."
A victory Saturday would be a step in the right direction. The Sooners, another drastically improved NCAA Tournament-bound team, are in town for one of the biggest home games in Ford's up-and-down tenure.
"I hope we've improved a lot (since the first meeting)," Ford said. "From the beginning of the game, we weren't in it at Oklahoma. ... We didn't play well and a lot of that had to with Oklahoma, but I hope we're a better team."
A season that began with ceiling-high expectations seemed to turn a corner two weeks ago against Iowa State. The Cowboys trailed by four with less than two minutes left and won on a banked shot by Marcus Smart.
A huge upset at No. 2 Kansas - the first since 1989 - came three days later, and three wins that followed have sent Ford's critics back into their shells and have prompted fans to get back on board.
As of Friday morning, all Bedlam tickets were sold out, a significant development for a program that's struggled to fill its 13,611-seat arena in recent years.
Because of its current surge, OSU (18-5, 8-3 Big 12) is considered a lock for the NCAA Tournament and is projected as high as a No. 5 seed. Ford took the Cowboys to the tournament in his first season (2008-09), but this would be his first trip with the highly touted players he recruited.
"They're not overly concerned about how many minutes, how many points, things like that," Ford said. "We've got some good players, but we've also got some really good guys that are committed to the university, committed to the team.
"It's a young team, but we've got the right chemistry on this team."
A key ingredient to the success has been the addition of Smart, the do-it-all point guard who is one of the top freshmen in the country. In his first Bedlam, he was limited to 10 points because of foul trouble and was a non-factor.
"I definitely struggled the first time at OU," he said. "But it's at our place. There's going to be a big crowd.
"... I'm going to try to stay out of foul trouble and do my best to do what I can to help my team."
The Cowboys are undefeated in Big 12 play at Gallagher-Iba Arena, where OU has won three times in seven seasons.
Coming off losing seasons a year ago, both teams are near the top of the Big 12, with the Cowboys in a three-way tie for first and the Sooners one game back.
"It's what Bedlam is all about," OSU forward Michael Cobbins said. "We've just got to keep our composure, do what we've got to do and protect our home court."
Original Print Headline: Rising rivalry
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Oklahoma State guard Le'Bryan Nash drives past Oklahoma forward Amath M'Baye during a Jan. 12 game in Norman. The Sooners won 77-68, but the Cowboys have only lost one game since that contest. SUE OGROCKI/Associated Press