January 6, 2007

OSU opens conference play against Bears

Oklahoma State's basketball team has managed to keep its hot start going, even with injuries and a short bench.

But now the 12th-ranked Cowboys get into the meat of their schedule - Big 12 Conference play. And while the 14-1 Pokes have survived the non-conference slate relatively unscathed, there's still many games to be played and plenty potential pitfalls left.

Is this team ready for the next step in the season, even with the limited numbers?

"This is definitely where we belong heading into conference play," JamesOn Curry said. "I think from the beginning of last year, all the adversity we came through made us stronger mentally. Everybody took it upon themselves to go out and individually get better. And when you take it upon that, it helps the whole. I don't think it's nothing that we can't overcome."

There is a bit of good news in the depth department. Terrel Harris, who suffered a facial injury last weekend and missed the last game, is expected to play against the Bears. And football wide receiver Adarius Bowman is joining the team. He's expected to be on the bench in street clothes tonight and will begin full-on practices with the team next week.

Assistant coach Jimmy Williams feels this squad is a pretty tough group.

"Our guys have gotten a little bit tougher than where we were at the beginning of the season or last year," he said. "In practice, these guys are on the floor the whole time. They're a little more physical and mentally a lot tougher than they were a year ago."

The next phase in the 2006-07 season starts this evening, with a 5 p.m. matchup against the Baylor Bears at Gallagher-Iba Arena. The game is officially a sellout, so if you're without a ticket, you'll be relegated to TV land. The game will be shown on KOCB (cable 11) in both Oklahoma City and Stillwater, KYMT (cable 10) in Tulsa and Fox Sports Southwest in the hinterlands of Oklahoma and parts of Texas.

"I feel real good about this team and the progress we are making," David Monds said. "I feel real good going into conference play. Guys like Kenny Cooper are playing great. Everybody is playing well so I feel good about playing Baylor."

The Bears (10-3) have had a nice start to the season so far, but their schedule has been packed with cream puffs. Their only real games of substance (Gonzaga, South Carolina and Syracuse) have all been losses. Even so, Scott Drew's squad is a young one with balanced scoring. Four of the starters average double-figure scoring a game (Kevin Rogers, 12.8ppg; Henry Dugat, 12.5ppg; Curtis Jerrells, 11.9ppg; Aaron Bruce, 11.3ppg) and the fifth starter - Mamadou Dione leads the Big 12 in blocked shots a game, with 2.4.

Last time out, the Cowboys ran roughshod over Div. II Southwestern Oklahoma State. OSU beat its directional counterpart, 129-77. That broke a 29-year-old record for scoring in a game. The previous best was 127 against Santa Fe.

"We had a lot of fun setting the record," Curry said. "It is fun running the court and throwing up alley-oops. Even though we did a lot of great things, we still could have done better in other areas."

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