Eric Bailey's Big 12 Insider
BY ERIC BAILEY World Sports Writer
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
2/19/13 at 5:38 AM
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys have won seven consecutive games, which is the program's longest string of league victories since 11 consecutive triumphs in the 2003-04 campaign. A key to the wins? OSU's ability to put away close games against teams like Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa State and Baylor.
"It's important to have good point guard play late in games, and I think we've got one of the best point guards in the country," OSU coach Travis Ford said. "Marcus Smart is very good and can make plays down the stretch."
Kansas: The Jayhawks sliced their three-game losing streak with back-to-back wins over Kansas State and Texas with an average margin of victory of 23.5 points.
"The biggest thing is we have played with great passion and energy, which has caused us to be much better defensively ... playing at home helps, and I thought our energy level the last two games has been very, very good," KU coach Bill Self said.
Texas Tech: Chris Walker took over a crippled program with the abrupt departure of former coach Billy Gillispie during the off-season. The Red Raiders are struggling right now with a six-game losing streak, but that hasn't kept morale down.
"We continue to preach attitude," Walker said. "This is a process and an enjoyable process being around kids that know how to handle adversity. We know we're building, and the No. 1 thing we need to build is a great attitude for things to come."
News and notes
More Kansas-OSU: First place will be on the line when Kansas visits Oklahoma State on Wednesday night.
The Cowboys defeated the Jayhawks 85-80 on Feb. 2, snapping KU's 33-game home win streak while planting themselves in the heart of the Big 12 race.
Self understands a tough road task faces his squad.
"(The stakes are) probably as high as they've been since my first and second year when Coach (Eddie) Sutton was coaching," Self said.
"I would anticipate a sellout and Gallagher rocking. When it's rocking, it's about as good as any place. It's terrific."
Return to the Little Apple: Bob Huggins returned to Kansas State on Monday night for the first time since his one-year stay in Manhattan in the 2006-07 season.
Huggins put new life into the Wildcats program, which finished with its first 20-win regular season since 1987-88. It won 10 league games for the first time since the Big 12 was formed.
"They had their struggles and he kind of re-energized them," K-State coach Bruce Weber said. "He brought name recognition and, with name recognition, they got some national recognition and got recruits.
"He definitely changed the mindset and the culture of Kansas State basketball ..."
Big week: Baylor hits two important games this week, entertaining Iowa State and traveling to Oklahoma.
"This time of year, every game is important," Bears coach Scott Drew said. "It starts with the home game on Wednesday. You have to win your home games to be successful in the Big 12. ... Hopefully we can take advantage of those situations."
Guard Pierre Jackson has struggled in back-to-back games. The preseason player of the year scored just seven points in a loss at Kansas State and is shooting just 1-of-12 from behind the 3-point line in those games.
"For us to win and be successful against quality teams in the Big 12, we need Pierre to be at his best," Drew said.
Weekly honors: Kansas' Jeff Withey and Kansas State sophomore Angel Rodriguez shared player of the week honors, while Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart was named the league's rookie of the week.
Withey (7-foot senior center) averaged 16 points and 10.5 rebounds a game in the Jayhawks' victories over Kansas State and Texas. Rodriguez (5-11 sophomore guard) averaged 19.5 points, eight assists, 3.5 rebounds and three steals a contest.
Smart scored a career-high 28 points against Oklahoma and totaled 10 rebounds, seven assists and three steals in the Cowboys' victories over Texas Tech and OU.
(Before Monday's game)
1. Oklahoma State: Oklahoma and Kansas in back-to-back games inside Gallagher-Iba? Rowdy is working its way back into the historic venue.
2. Kansas: Are the Jayhawks showing that their three-game losing streak was just a harmless blip?
3. Kansas State: The Wildcats still control their own destiny after surviving the return of Huggins on Monday night.
4. Oklahoma: The Sooners could put together a nice run with winnable road games at Texas Tech and Texas sandwiching a visit from Baylor.
5. Iowa State: The Cyclones offense continues to excel. Iowa State is averaging 79 points a game.
6. Baylor: The Bears have lost four of the team's past six games, including a 20-point loss at Kansas State over the weekend.
7. West Virginia: The road is tough for the Mountaineers, which started with Monday's loss to Kansas State. Games with Oklahoma State and Kansas await.
8. Texas: A sign of the Longhorns' downfall this season - field goal percentage. Texas ranks 292nd (40.6 percent) nationally.
9. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders have lost 10 of their past 11 games, including a nail-biter (66-64) at West Virginia over the weekend.
10. TCU: Just how did the Horned Frogs beat Kansas again?
GAME OF THE WEEK
Kansas at Oklahoma State, 8 p.m. Wednesday
Oklahoma State is searching for its first regular-season sweep of Kansas since the 1982-83 campaign. It should be noted that since the formation of the Big 12, the teams only played one regular-season contest for 15 years until resuming the two-game yearly series last year.