January 10, 2009

Conference Time! OSU hosts A&M

So far, so good for Oklahoma State basketball.

The Cowboys survived the non-conference schedule and have an 11-3 mark to show for it. With a strength of schedule at 51 and RPI of, the Pokes seem to have been tested pretty well to this point.

But conference play is always where the pretenders are separated from the contenders. And that process starts tonight, as the Cowboys host Texas A&M in the Big 12 opener for both schools. The game is set for an 8 p.m. tipoff and will be televised on ESPNU.

So do all those numbers above mean that OSU is ready for the tough part of the schedule?

"Yeah I do," said head coach Travis Ford. "I think we're ready for it. We're excited about it and I think we're ready. I don't know if you ever know for sure until you start up and get it going. I think they understand that the warm-ups are over with; the real deal starts now. That's why you come to Oklahoma State, to be a part of the Big 12 and compete. Hopefully this place will be sold out, hopefully, and we'll have a big crowd in here. We're going to need it."

The Aggies come to Stillwater with a 14-1 mark. Their lone loss on the season came against Tulsa in the South Padre Invitational on Nov. 28. Since then, A&M has won 10 straight. Josh Carter has led the way for them so far this season, averaging 13.9 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. Donald Sloan (11.5 ppg, 3.6 assists per game) and Bryan Davis (10.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg) are the other starters averaging double figures, while B.J. Holmes has been effective off the bench, scoring 8.6 ppg.

The Cowboys will be looking to avenge a home loss to A&M last season. In that game, the Aggies walked off the white maple with a 59-56 win.

But with a new administration leading the way, what happened last year isn't really germane to the conversation. With a new coach comes a new situation and new goals. Well, not always new goals. That's something Ford doesn't believe in.

"No, I never really do that with first-year teams because I really don't know myself exactly, other than I think we have a chance to compete," he said. "Our team, we have some weaknesses, but we are who we are. I think on any given night we can beat anybody, but it's the exact opposite probably, on any given night. We're not overly deep and we're not overly big and we've got to figure out how to rebound against Big 12 teams and things like that very, very quickly. We'll talk a little bit about a few expectations or goals, but nothing in concrete. We're still learning so it's tough."

To do anything in conference this season, the Cowboys will have to be better than their last game, a sloppy win over Savannah State.

"I'm surprised it was not closer than it was just because we did not play particularly well," Ford said. "But we played well enough in stretches. We went three, four, five minute stretches probably three times that really put everything over the hump. We just didn't play very smart tonight. There were a lot of things we've got to be better at."

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