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Typical Bedlam Roles Reversed Ahead of Saturday Rematch

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Last year, the Oklahoma State men’s basketball team went 12-20, and the Bedlam rival Sooners made the Final Four.

Yes, old news but relevant to 7 p.m. Saturday when the University of Oklahoma comes to Gallagher-Iba Arena.

The Cowboys have won seven of eight games, thanks in part to a revived GIA. OU is last in the Big 12 with attendance to the point where OSU coach Brad Underwood had to point it out to their fans at halftime the past time he was there.

“I said that there should be a couple thousand more fans there,” Underwood said. “Because that was a Final Four team. That was a team that’s been great.”

The Sooners have had to fight through injury, but Underwood said Lon Kruger is one of the best coaches in the country.

“(The fans) were giving me a hard time,” Underwood said. “I like having fun, and that’s who I am.”

Since Underwood got on campus, packing GIA has been one of, if not the biggest, promotional tokens of the season. Last year, the arena averaged an attendance of 5,857, which is about 43 percent of capacity. That average was 92nd in the nation.

Considering the Sooners’ team last year, OU fans weren’t much better. Lloyd Noble Center averaged 10,000 attendees per game, which was 43rd nationally. However, their arena’s capacity is about 2,000 seats fewer than GIA.

This season in Big 12 games, the average attendance at OSU home games is 8,580. Last season, it was 6,605.

That’s a 46 percent increase.

“I think it should be exciting for all of Oklahoma State,” Underwood said. “For us to sell out, that’s exciting. That’s how I dreamt and envisioned it, and this program deserves that. This program and our fans should have those experiences.”

The on-court results obviously influence those numbers directly. The first Bedlam matchup was an example of that. Senior guard Phil Forte’s 3-pointer with about five seconds left gave the Cowboys the lead and the win in Norman for the first time in more than a decade.

Underwood said Bedlam is just better when it’s a rivalry.

“We probably hear about other schools’ rivalries a little too much,” he said. “There’s none better than this one. OU, Oklahoma State, in this state, it encompasses everything from the northwest corner to the southeast corner and every place in between.”

Junior center Mitchell Solomon, from Bixby, said when Bedlam is competitive, it’s an environment that Oklahomans get unconditionally excited about.

“It’s something that’s rooted so down deep that it’s hard to explain to people that haven’t experienced it,” Solomon said. “I don’t really know if I could put words to it.”

Senior forward Leyton Hammonds is from Dallas-Fort Worth, but he said in the years he has been in Stillwater, Bedlam has explained itself.

“This is the rivalry,” Hammonds said. “It’s great to get this place rocking. … To have the fans that we have, I wouldn’t trade ’em for anything else.”

Saturday will be Underwood’s first Bedlam inside GIA, and he said he expects a sellout.

“A lot of noise,” he said. “I’ve said it many times, I’m all about decibels. I love ’em.”

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