Oklahoma State snapped a seven-game losing streak with a win Saturday against Texas Tech. It was leading scorer Marcus Smart’s first game back after serving a three-game suspension for shoving a fan on Feb. 8 in Lubbock.
The Cowboys (17-10, 5-9 Big 12) were the preseason favorite to win the league, but are now just hoping to regain enough momentum and clout to earn an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament.
If OSU can finish the regular season with five consecutive wins (including its win against Tech), the Cowboys may pull it off. But it’s not going to be easy. They host No. 8 Kansas and Kansas State before finishing at No. 17 Iowa State on March 8.
Any more slip-ups and OSU will most likely be forced to win the Big 12 tournament to earn an NCAA berth.
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For TCU, which lost 82-50 to OSU on Jan. 15 in Stillwater, Okla., the end of the season is more about preparing for 2014-15.
Forward Amric Fields, who has labored to get back in shape since returning from his knee injury a year ago, as well as time missed with a broken hand this season, did not play Saturday in TCU’s loss to Iowa State. TCU coach Trent Johnson said he wasn’t sure Fields should play Monday either. In fact, Fields might not play the rest of the season to give his knee some time to heal.
“One of the things that’s really important for me is his overall health,” Johnson said. “It would be different if he wasn’t playing against good players, good teams.”
More important, Johnson said, he’s concerned about Fields aggravating his injury against physical teams such OSU, West Virginia and Texas over the next couple of weeks. He’ll have to weigh the importance of having Fields out there chancing a worse injury over having him sit the rest of the season.
Fields would be the fifth key member of the roster to lose significant time because of injury or other reasons this season. If Fields is unavailable, it would leave Johnson with seven scholarship players.
“I tip my hat to him,” Cyclones coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We were in that same boat my first year at Iowa State and you knew it was going to get better. Looking down at the end of the bench I think I see that same thing with the guy they have sitting out.”