Cowboys return to court

Monday, February 5th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) -- As a walk-on who played rarely, Nate Fleming rooted for his Oklahoma State teammates to win big. A rout was his ticket into the game.

"We're going to go into every game looking to blow people out just in memory of Nate and Dan -- giving them their ticket,"

forward Andre Williams said.

Fleming and Dan Lawson were among 10 people who died Jan. 27 in a plane crash. The Cowboys return to the court Monday night for the first time since the crash when they play host to Missouri.

Oklahoma State (13-4, 4-2) has been able to hold only a handful of practices since the crash. Their first organized workout came on the Tuesday following. The next day, they gathered with thousands of others for a public memorial service inside Gallagher-Iba Arena.

Since then, there have been funerals to attend just about every day. The latest was Monday morning, when sports information employee Will Hancock was remembered at a memorial service attended by coach Eddie Sutton and his staff, as well as coaches from across the university.

The main lobby of the arena remained filled Monday with flowers and hand-written messages to the victims.

"We've talked to our team a lot," said Sean Sutton, Eddie's son and the team's associate head coach. "What's happened is a terrible tragedy and everybody's sorry. I think our guys realize that they've got to go forward with their lives.

"I think one of the best ways for that to happen is to get back in a routine -- going to class every day, studying, going on the practice court and practicing, and playing games."

Monday's game was the start of a busy week for the Cowboys, one that will require them to focus as best they can on the task at hand. After playing Missouri (14-6, 5-2), they travel to Nebraska on Wednesday and then visit Kansas on Saturday.

"I think we do need to get back and start playing games," said forward Fredrik Jonzen. "I think it's going to help all of us get through this."

Eddie Sutton said the first practice after the crash was as good as any practice this year. He said he expected his players, despite the difficulty of the past week, will play well in their return.

"I think they will respond in a very positive manner," he said. "This group of guys has proven to me that they will dedicate themselves to Dan Lawson and Nate Fleming. They'll want to do everything they can to win as many games as possible.

"I think they also understand that the schedule we have remaining is very challenging."

The Cowboys planned to ask for a moment of silence before the game to honor the 10 who died. Missouri coach Quin Snyder, who agreed to move this game back two nights to accommodate the Cowboys, said he expected to find a solemn setting as the game gets under way.

"But at some point, the game will be a game," he said. "It is something we will talk to our players about -- how to handle that entire experience and say, `Hey, you are going down there to compete and win.' "