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Cowboys back to the Big Dance

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OSU and Michigan will battle inside Banker Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Friday.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma State’s men’s basketball team is returning to the NCAA tournament after a year’s absence. The Cowboys landed the 10th seed in the Midwest Region and will play No. 7 Michigan in Indianapolis at 11:15 a.m. (CBS) on Friday.

The Pokes (20-12) will be looking to snap a three-game losing skid against the Wolverines (24- 11) who captured the Big Ten Tournament championship by defeating Wisconsin, 71-56, Sunday. Michigan has won five straight games and seven of their last eight contests. UM is a 1.5-point favorite to beat O-State.

Senior guard Derrick Walton Jr. led the Wolverines with an average of 15.2 points per game this season. He was named the tournament’s MVP with a 20.5 scoring average, 25.5 in the semifinals and finals. Walton also was named to the all-Big Ten second team for the season.

Head coach John Beilein is guiding Michigan to the NCAA Tournament for the seventh time in his 10th year at Michigan. He led the Big Blue to the Elite Eight three years ago. Beilein has coached basketball for 39 years, 25 years with a 506-309 record at Division I level.

OSU head coach Brad Underwood is no stranger to the Big Dance. He led Stephen F. Austin to three straight NCAA Tournament appearances before taking the Cowboys’ position last year.

Underwood is 109-25 in four seasons as head coach.

Many Cowboy fans hope that Underwood can develop their team into multi-tournament appearances.

“It’s not just me that’s gonna help build this program, it’s our fans,” Underwood said. “To be able to share this moment with them, I hope it’s one of those things that they can remember and enjoy. It’s only right.”

Sophomore guard Jawun Evans earned All-Big 12 first team honors this year. He leads the Pokes with 19 points per game.

“Just knowing you’re going to the dance, and me being my first time going, it’s just an exciting moment, a moment to remember,” Evans said. “I’m just ready to get out there.

“I just go out and do what I have to do for our team. If that’s getting a lot of assists that night then so be it. If I have to score then that’s what it has to be.”

Evans also leads the team with 6.2 assists per game.

Both teams had some common opponents this year. OSU defeated Central Arkansas, 102-90, at Gallagher-Iba Arena while the Wolverines beat the Bears, 97-53, in Ann Arbor.

Maryland beat the Cowboys, 71-70, in College Park and Michigan, 77-70, in Ann Arbor. The Pokes split wins with Texas (lost 82-79 in Austin and won 84-71 Stillwater. The Wolverines beat the Longhorns, 53-50, in Ann Arbor.

OSU has lost the first round of the last five tournament appearances and hasn’t been to the Sweet 16 since 2005.

This matchup will be the fourth overall meeting between OSU and UM, and the first since the second round of the 1997 NIT. The Wolverines own a slight 2-1 edge in the series. The two programs also met in the 1992 Sweet 16 in Lexington, Ky., and in a non-conference tournament in Toledo, Ohio in 1982.

The Oklahoma State- Michigan winner will advance to the second round to face the winner of No. 2 seed Louisville (24-8) and No. 15 seed Jacksonville State (20-14) on Sunday for a spot in the Midwest Region semifinals at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

Kansas (28-4) is the top seed in the Midwest Region.

                    STAT COMPARISONS
 
                          OSU vs. UM
 
Scoring Offense: 85.5 / 74.8
 
Scoring Defense: 78.0  / 65.5
 
Field Goal Pctg: 46.4% / 48.3%
 
3-Point FG Pctg: 40.1% / 38.1%
 
Free Throw Pctg: 78.7% / 77.5%
 
Rebounds: 36.7 / 29.4
 
Assists: 14.7 / 13.8
 
Turnovers: 13.2 / 9.4
 
Steals: 7.8 / 5.9
 
Blocked Shots: 3.0 / 2.8

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Ray Dozier

Ray Dozier is the author of Legends of Oklahoma Sooners Football and two editions of The...

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