Oklahoma State, or what’s left of its basketball team, heads to Norman to take on No. 3 Oklahoma in Bedlam tonight at 8:00 p.m. CT.
It’s a bit of a mystery as to who will take the floor in orange and black with several key Cowboys ailing. Besides leading scorers Phil Forte (injured Nov. 19, out for season) and Jawun Evans (injured Feb. 3, out for season), guys like Tyree Griffin, Leyton Hammonds and Mitchell Solomon could miss time.
“Even before last Saturday’s game, I wasn’t sure out of three starters who was going to be able to go,” said head coach Travis Ford. “They gave it a go, but y’all saw it. Tyree gave it a go, but halfway through it he was playing on one leg. Mitchell Solomon doesn’t even get a shot off in 19 minutes playing on one arm. And then, Leyton Hammonds is in a boot every second he’s not on the court.”
Hammonds is the de facto scorer getting in double figures seven out of the past eight games. Solomon starts and defends the opponent’s best post player and Griffin has been effective setting up teammates after stepping into the starting point guard role.
Griffin will have to be incapacitated to sit out Bedlam; he’s the only scholarship point guard left. If Hammonds or Solomon can’t go, some combo of Chris Olivier, Tavarius Shine, Anthony Allen and Joe Burton will step into the starting lineup. Those four make up Ford’s bench at the moment with Olivier and Shine getting the most run.
Beyond that, there’s the ultra-athletic-but-raw freshman Davon Dillard and workout warrior Igor Ibaka. Both have appeared in just five games this season.
The Cowboys nearly pulled off a Bedlam upset in Stillwater on Jan. 13th. Jeffrey Carroll’s last-second three was just off and the Sooners escaped with a 74-72 victory. That was with the help of an unconscious Evans, who poured in 42, while OSU’s defense, led mainly by Jeff Newberry, forced OU star Buddy Hield into 10 turnovers.
Oklahoma had lost three of four prior to Saturday’s road win against tenth-ranked West Virginia. Tonight’s contest gives the Sooners a chance to prove the slump is over or to cast more doubt on their national title hopes.
For the Cowboys and their head coach, it’s all about survival.