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Surging Oklahoma State gets another shot at No. 9 Kansas

Oklahoma State is suddenly the hottest team in the fiercely competitive Big 12 with five consecutive wins and seven in the past eight games.

The Cowboys will next try to atone for their most disheartening setback of the season. Oklahoma State (16-9, 7-5 Big 12) gets a second chance at beating No. 9 Kansas (20-5, 8-4) on Tuesday night in Stillwater, Okla., after letting a 15-point halftime road lead get away on Dec. 31 and succumbing 69-67 to the then-No. 4 Jayhawks. A chance to force overtime came up short in the final seconds when Kansas’ Kevin McCullar Jr. blocked a shot by Oklahoma State’s Bryce Thompson. Speaking after Oklahoma State’s 64-56 upset win at No. 11 Iowa State on Saturday, Cowboys guard Caleb Asberry reflected on the loss to Kansas.

“We lost that game, a close one. We’re ready to get that one back, too. Now we’re in good contention to win this whole thing,” Asberry said. Oklahoma State is in a three-way tie for fourth place in the Big 12 but stands just two games behind first-place Texas. Baylor and Kansas are one game back in a tie for second. The Jayhawks, who have won four of their past five games, routed host Oklahoma 78-55 on Saturday to sew up the program’s 34th consecutive 20-win season. Bill Self has hit the mark in all 20 of his campaigns.

Kansas forced 24 turnovers to match a season high and racked up 16 steals, the most in a conference game since having 19 against Colorado on Jan. 27, 2007, when the Buffaloes were still part of the league. Jalen Wilson, a Big 12 Player of the Year candidate, had 18 points against Oklahoma after scoring a season-low two on 1-of-7 shooting five days earlier in an 88-80 home win over No. 5 Texas. Wilson was scoreless 15-plus minutes into the Oklahoma game before tallying 10 points in the final 4:14 of the half. “He needed to see the ball go in the basket,” Self said. “For a guy that’s averaging 20, you wouldn’t think he needed to see the ball go in the basket, but he did. I can tell.” Wilson leads the Jayhawks in scoring (20.6) and rebounding (8.3). He had 20 points in the first meeting with the Cowboys.

Thompson matched his career high of 23 points in that meeting and set a new personal mark with seven 3-pointers. The junior played his first season at Kansas before transferring to Oklahoma State.

Thompson ranks second on the Cowboys in scoring at 11.2 points per game, trailing Kalib Boone (11.9). Avery Anderson III averages 11.1 points but has missed the past three games and is sidelined indefinitely due to a left wrist injury. John-Michael Wright played the starring role against Iowa State by scoring 13 of his team-best 19 points in the second half. But his main concern is seeing the Cowboys’ torrid play continue. “The work is showing and as a team we just love seeing the results,” Wright said afterward. “But we’re not going to be content. Our coaches have emphasized the job’s not done. We still have a lot of games left to play.”

Oklahoma State is 11-2 at home as it tackles a Kansas squad that is 5-3 on the road. However, the Jayhawks have prevailed in nine of the past 10 meetings. Still, Self says his team remains capable of reaching its potential. “I don’t think the team can be good until they actually know who they are, and I think we’re still figuring out who we are and what our identity is,” Self said. –Field Level Media


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