No Letdown: Oklahoma State Continues Its Mad Dash for an NCAA Bid TonightPosted by Brian Goodman on March 3rd, 2014
As the final seconds of Oklahoma State’s upset win over Kansas ticked down Saturday night, fans rushed the floor, and with good reason. The Cowboys had a great second half, overcoming a late 10-point deficit to beat the Big 12 champions. It was the kind of night the Cowboys and their fans drew up back when the season started, with Marcus Smart, Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash doing the majority of the damage and Smart taking over when the team needed him to do so. Granted, back at the beginning of the season, a win over Kansas was supposed to be more relevant to the Cowboys’ Big 12 title hopes than their NCAA Tournament status, but it was a huge victory nonetheless, as our very own Eli Linton broke down. It also didn’t reduce the moment when Smart (misguidedly) insinuated after the game that had Kansas won, head coach Bill Self would have cut down the nets in Stillwater.
As huge as Saturday’s win was, Oklahoma State doesn’t have much time to bask in the glow, as Kansas State makes the trip to Gallagher-Iba Arena tonight. The Wildcats are coming off a big win themselves, having put away Iowa State on Saturday to remove any realistic doubt about their postseason prospects. Kansas State won the first meeting against the Cowboys back on January 4, and while slightly less than two months doesn’t seem like that long ago, here’s where both teams were at that point:
- Oklahoma State was ranked sixth in the country.
- Kansas State had its work cut out, needing to counteract early season losses to Northern Colorado, Charlotte and Georgetown.
- The Cowboys were playing their first game without big man Michael Cobbins.
So it’s been a while. Here are three things that Oklahoma State needs to focus on tonight if the Cowboys want to win their fourth straight game and inch ahead of the rest of the NCAA Tournament bubble:
- Turn Kansas State Over: Since Cobbins’ injury, Oklahoma State has been a poor defensive rebounding team. That’s not exactly shocking news, but even with so much of the conference schedule now behind them, they’ve struggled to fill his void on the glass. Fortunately, however, they’ve done a very good job turning opponents over. In fact, the Cowboys lead the Big 12 in defensive turnover percentage, with an 18.9 percent rate in conference play. The Wildcats’ offense ranks eighth in the conference in holding onto the ball, so it’s reasonable to expect the Cowboys to cause the Wildcats some problems.
- Contain Marcus Foster: The key position battle will be one between two young point guards, Marcus Foster and Marcus Smart. In the first match-up between Oklahoma State and Kansas State, Foster scored 17 points, turned the ball over just twice, and even got inside for eight rebounds. Meanwhile, Smart scored 15 points (albeit inefficiently) and pitched in on the glass himself for six rebounds. Foster may only be a freshman, but Smart will have his work cut out as he’ll try to keep Foster out of the scoring column and prevent him from getting easy angles for entry passes to Thomas Gipson.
- Get The Crowd Behind Them: On Saturday afternoon, Oklahoma State was mildly criticized through social media for a lackluster turnout for ESPN’s College Gameday show. It was a different story during the game, though, as the buzz grew more intense with every mistake Kansas made and every dunk the Cowboys threw down. It’s easy enough for fans to show up against a blue-blood like Kansas, but will those same fans turn out tonight? To their credit, OSU’s administration is pulling out all the stops, granting free admission to any student with a valid ID. The Cowboys and their crowd will have to feed off one another.