The last time Oklahoma State took down Kansas, the students were rushing the floor in Stillwater and sophomore guard Marcus Smart was adding the latest chemicals to a grease-fire of a rivalry.
Bill Self said he was coming here, cutting down our nets, and he was going to win it outright in Stillwater, Smart said then, moments after the Cowboys victory on March 1. And we couldnt let that happen in our house.
Remember that? The insinuation of a net-cutting in Stillwater rankled Self, who called Smarts comments disturbing. But if any animosity remains in the most intriguing rivalry in the Big 12, Oklahoma State and Kansas can settle it at 2 p.m. Thursday in the conference tournament quarterfinals at the Sprint Center.
That was the upshot of No. 8 seed Oklahoma States 80-62 victory over No. 9 Texas Tech on Wednesday night in the Big 12 tourney opener. The Cowboys performance, which included 18 points, seven assists and six steals from Smart, was thorough and dominant. But it was more about the matchup it set up:
No. 1 Kansas-No. 8 Oklahoma State: Round 3.
Its only right, Smart said. Its two heavyweight fighters going at it, and may the best man win.
Sitting in the Cowboys locker room after the game, Smart wanted to clarify that he doesnt hate KU. Even after two years, four games, a backflip after a victory at Allen Fieldhouse, and two victories for each program. Something always seems to be going on with Smart and Kansas. But its not hate, he says.
Its kind of like: We respect KU no doubt about it, Smart said. We dont hate KU at all. We dont hate (anybody) from KU, we dont hate the coaching staff. We love playing against that competition. But that respect goes out the door when you step between the lines.
Kansas defeated Oklahoma State 80-78 at Allen Fieldhouse in January, but Oklahoma State avenged the loss on March 1 in Stillwater the Jayhawks last game before KU center Joel Embiid was shut down with a stress fracture in his back.
Its tough to see a player of his caliber go down in that type of fashion, Smart said. Prayers go out. Hopefully he can get back. But their inside presence isnt as strong as if he was on the court.
When the season began, Kansas and Oklahoma State opened as co-favorites in the Big 12. The Cowboys stumbled, losing seven straight conference games while Smart served a three-game suspension for shoving a fan at Texas Tech.
But the Cowboys have rallied. After winning five of six, Oklahoma State appears to be a lock for the NCAA Tournament. Now the Cowboys can think about improving their seed and settling a score with Kansas.
Across the locker room from Smart, Oklahoma State junior LeBryan Nash offered one reason why the Cowboys love to play the Jayhawks.
Bill Self, Nash said. Every year, everybody doubts them, and then next thing you know, they win another Big 12 championship. So I guess its Bill Self and his ability to coach.