Jeff Newberry heads up a group of five seniors playing their last home game at Gallagher-Iba Arena on Friday night when Oklahoma State hosts No. 23 Texas.
“It’ll be a little bit emotional for me, this will be my last home game here,” Newberry said on Thursday. “I've enjoyed my time here, like I've said before. It'll be my last time seeing a lot of students here. They get to come and see me play for the last time. I think I'll be more so worried about finishing out strong for them."
Anthony Allen, Chris Olivier, Ford Stuen and Codey McElroy will join Newberry for Senior Night festivities. And the Pokes (12-18, 3-14) could sure use a win.
Not because it will change the season’s direction or the team’s legacy – OSU will be the 9-seed in the Big 12 tournament regardless of tonight’s outcome – just to end a low season on a high note.
ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi has the Longhorns at a 6-seed in the NCAA tournament right now. Texas (19-11, 10-7) can finish as high as fourth or as low as sixth in the Big 12 depending on tonight’s results.
The Longhorns won a close one 74-69 in the season’s first pairing in Austin. Leyton Hammonds led OSU with 18 points and 9 rebounds while Jawun Evans added 12 and 8 with 7 assists. Isaiah Taylor scored 18 to lead UT.
This Cowboy basketball season will stand as its worst since Leonard Hamilton’s inaugural season in 1986-87. Travis Ford’s team was decimated by injuries; only Newberry will have started every game.
Still, there were high points. Jawun Evans progressed from diminutive freshman to one of the best point guards in the conference before the shoulder injury sidelined him. Evans scored 42 and nearly led the Pokes to a massive upset over No. 2 Oklahoma. Two games later the Cowboys crushed No. 3 Kansas 86-67.
All that matters tonight is that Ford and the Cowboys can end the regular season with a win against a ranked team. For the seniors (and maybe Ford too?) this final home game provides a chance to leave GIA on a positive note, something to numb the pain of a stressful season.
Oklahoma State will take on 8-seed Kansas State in the opening round of the Big 12 tournament next Wednesday at 6:00 p.m. CT.