Oklahoma State anniversary nearing

Monday, January 21st 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ As the first anniversary of the tragic Oklahoma State plane crash drew near, coach Eddie Sutton was preparing to address his team.

Unless the players requested a formal observance, the Cowboys planned to let everyone just spend a quiet Sunday with their families, a spokesman said.

There will also be a moment of silence before Oklahoma State's home game Saturday against Colorado, the team the Cowboys had just played last Jan. 27 when a small plane headed back to Stillwater crashed in a storm.

Ten people associated with the Oklahoma State program died.

``You've just got to fight through it and keep going and be as respectful as you can,'' Brooks Thompson, Oklahoma State's director of basketball operations, said Monday.

``Right now it's just quiet. I think coach will address that with the team pretty soon. But there hasn't been anything yet.''

All around the Big 12, memories of the night that sent shock throughout college basketball remain vivid.

``The tragedy's always in the back of our mind, especially in our league,'' said Barry Collier, whose Nebraska team will visit Oklahoma State Wednesday night.

``I also think while we never, never want to forget those men, it is a situation where time has allowed us to try to focus on the task at hand. I can hardly believe it's been a year. It's brought back to mind every time you travel with your team.

``I can't even imagine how strong the Oklahoma State guys and program must be because they've been able to separate the games from that terrible tragedy.''

Back on the court, it may be payback time for Iowa State when Kansas comes calling Wednesday. The Jayhawks will be out to break a five-game losing streak to the two-time defending Big 12 champions.

But those losses came at a time when the Cyclones had players like Jamaal Tinsley and Marcus Fizer, who have taken their games to the NBA.

``It's something we do remember, them beating us five straight times,'' said Kansas coach Roy Williams. ``I probably remember it more than the players do. Iowa State has kicked our tails for a long time.''

While Kansas and Oklahoma have been getting most of the attention, Texas has quietly won 12 of its last 13 games. At 4-0, the Longhorns are the only team unbeaten in the conference except for Kansas.

``Probably the biggest thing has been the willingness of this group to try to improve each day,'' said Texas coach Rick Barnes.

``They don't sit back and feel good about anything other than knowing they've got to get ready. They know that right now we've got a lot of work to do to continue to get better.''

Like other coaches around the Big 12, Barnes marvels at how well Sutton has handled the Oklahoma State family the past year.

``I don't think I could ever understand what they went through there. It has had an unbelievable rippling effect through the entire league.''