Cowboys hope worst is behind them

Monday, January 28th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) _ If in fact Maurice Baker is back to playing like the Baker of old, then it couldn't come at a better time for Oklahoma State.

Baker has been limited all month by a groin injury. He has struggled defensively, hasn't scored consistently and hasn't looked anything like the All-Big 12 player he was a year ago.

But he looked like himself in the second half against Colorado on Saturday, scoring eight straight points during one stretch including back-to-back 3-pointers that helped carry the Cowboys to a 64-55 victory.

``The second half I was feeling pretty good,'' Baker said. ``I think that's about the best game I've played since I was injured.''

The 11th-ranked Cowboys (17-3, 4-3 Big 12) will need more of that Wednesday night when they travel to Norman to play No. 6 Oklahoma (15-3, 4-2). The Sooners are coming off a 92-79 loss at Texas Tech, but have dominated opponents at home this year.

Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton had said for about a week that Baker was near 100 percent physically. But Baker still played tentatively against Nebraska on Wednesday night and in the first half against Colorado.

Sutton said Baker lost some confidence as a result of his injury. That showed in practice, Sutton said, when Baker would become passive and let others shoot instead of taking shots himself.

That's how he played in the first half against Colorado _ 0-for-3 from the floor, just one point. He got going in the second half and finished with 16 points, his season average.

``Hopefully we can get him straightened out,'' Sutton said. ``When we're really playing well, he's got to score points. We don't have that many other guys that can just go out there and potentially hit somebody for 20 or 25 points.''

But Oklahoma does. The Sooners are second in the Big 12 in scoring, at 81.8 points per game, and lead the conference in scoring margin (18 ppg). Hollis Price is averaging 17.8 points per game, Ebi Ere 16 and Aaron McGhee 13. Point guard Quannas White is needed more for his assists and defense, but had a career-high 17 points in a recent game. Jason Detrick had a 20-point game this season, and Daryan Selvy has twice scored 18. They both come off the bench.

Oklahoma also has one of the best defenses in the Big 12, although the Sooners struggled against Tech. The Red Raiders shot 56.7 percent to avenge a 26-point loss to OU two weeks earlier.

``In the second half, we couldn't get them stopped,'' coach Kelvin Sampson said.

Wednesday's game will be a major test for Oklahoma State. Oklahoma has won 17 straight at Lloyd Noble Center and has outscored opponents by 24.5 points per game at home.

``Our players are feeling better about themselves,'' Sutton said. ``Even though we're still not playing as well offensively, I really believe these two games this week our defense has been so much better than it was the previous two games.''