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A&M Dashes OSU’s Hopes, 67-66

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The Story
The whole thing played out like some kind of terrible action movie with lots of b-list personalities that kept you around long enough to see how it ended but wasn’t engaging enough that you were ever fully invested.

From Marshall’s illness, to OSU’s 17 turnovers, to Travis Ford playing four PGs at the same time, the entire game had a very odd feel. It probably didn’t help for me that I missed the first eight minutes because Ibrahima Thomas and Co. went to overtime up in Rhode Island against Providence. One of my friends who was at the game texted me as the Cincinnati game was winding down and said, “A&M is shooting one-and-one already.” Ladies and gentlemen, the only team in America that can put its opponent in the bonus before its game even comes on TV!

The two teams combined for a bulimic 26 points in the first 15 minutes but thankfully things started to pick up after that. OSU ended the first half with the unconventional lineup of Keiton, Penn, Dowell, Franklin, Shaw, and was actually widening a lead on the #17 team in the nation. I was just staring at my TV set in disbelief over what I was seeing. Wait, you’re telling me OSU’s starting five can’t get it done against Texas Tech but throw out three point guards and a second and third string post and we’re going to start opening it up on the third best team in the conference? Huh?

While we’re here can we take a moment and talk about how much more clarity this OSU offense had with Dowell playing point? I’m not going to say I understand it or that any of it makes sense but it actually looked like a legitimate Division 1 offense for a while. His 22-2-4-2 was gorgeous on so many levels. First, the fact that OSU had a point guard put up 22 points and 4 assists (with only 1 turnover!) speaks for itself. But the way he did it, running jumpers, explosive drives, smart kicks to Keiton, suave dishes to Markel, the whole performance was phenomenal. Does OSU have anything to lose the rest of the way by saying, “here you go, here are the reins, go win yourself the starting spot next year”? I don’t think so.

The second half was very much a remix of the first, sloppy college basketball diluted by the fact that Big 12 referees think great games are quantified by the number of times they blow on their whistles. I can’t say it was lopsided one way or another because OSU commits more fouls than Mark Madsen at a John Wall dance-off, but I don’t know how many more games of 60+ free throws I can sit through.

The last five minutes though, the end of that terrible movie, culminated in the near capitalization of a virtuoso performance by the most unheralded kid in the building.

A&M led by three at the four-minute media timeout. Over the next three minutes OSU would go down five before clawing its way to within one with JPO on the line to finish a monster and-one initiated by his own interception of a cross-court Aggie pass. He missed the free throw but A&M swatted it out of bounds. OSU ball. They got it in to Dowell (already had a career high at this point) who took a quick, confident jumper that rattled out. I didn’t even care, I was just coming out of my seat excited to see somebody who wanted to step up and hit that shot with, as Dan McLaughlin and Bob Valvano kept saying, “the season on the line.” Wait, didn’t that ship sail about two weeks ago?

Anyway, it rattled out, A&M grabbed it, and Khris Middleton hit a pair of free throws to go up three. Dowel grabbed the inbounds pass and went coast-to-coast for a quick and easy layup to cut it back to one. Then A&M got a 10-second backcourt call that felt like a minute. So now there are 22 seconds left and OSU plays for the last sh…wait there goes Dowell, does he think he’s in the slam dunk contest tonight? Did he just try to smash on Khris Middleton?!

You know what? I loved it. I hate when teams meander around in the final minutes of games only to throw up a beleaguered three at the last second that only goes in about 1 in every 87 times. So go ahead, go right at somebody, get a foul called, hit your free throws.

And I was ready to dedicate this entire post to Dowell. I was ready to crown him our Scoonie Penn. I was ready to give him Markel’s starting PG spot (that Keiton is actually occupying), but then he went and fouled B.J. Holmes with fifteen seconds left. Of course as PFB contributor, Freemason10 pointed out — why was OSU playing full court defense with 15 ticks left and a 1-point lead. I have no ideas. I only have questions, and sometimes jokes.

So he hit the free throws, OSU couldn’t answer, and the lasting image of my weekend is of Holmes staring into OSU’s student section wagging his tongue and waving his arms, taunting a stadium and crowd that on this night (and most others) had no answer.

When it was over
The millisecond it touched Pilgrim’s hands on the very last play. I probably can’t hit that shot with his video game alias if I tried it 50 times so I knew he wasn’t doing it in real life.

Stat I loved
1 — as in 1 turnover from Dowell, in 31 minutes. He can run point for this team for the rest of his career if that’s what he’s bringing to the table.

How OSU could have won
Well having Marshall out didn’t really help things even though I feel like OSU, in a bigger picture sense, played pretty well. They could not foul once every other possession, but at this point isn’t that like saying if I could jump ten feet in the air I could dunk better than Blake Griffin? In other words, duh.

Player of the game
It’s not even close. Give him Allen Fieldhouse on Monday night, Travis. If he gives half the performance he did tonight then just let him have it the rest of the year.

The rest of my notes

  • Is it bad that I wanted the Cincy Providence game to go to more OT because I want to watch the skills competition instead of the OSU game?
  • The offensive screen foul streak is still alive! My unofficial count has it at 7 games.
  • In a related story Markel Brown continues his “my gosh did he really just do that” games streak, at 8 or 9 depending on who you ask, with a nasty swat in the first half.
  • OSU should have just gone open kimono in the first half and let Pilgrim start swinging at everyone when A&M started getting chippy. Why not?
  • On the technical fouls Middleton shot: I’ve never seen refs take points off the board, but Ford is right, it should have been a technical on A&M. Although Gottlieb may or may not have patented this move so do we really have a lot of room to talk?
  • I wish Pilgrim always played like the beast he is. I wonder how many times I’ve written that this year?
  • Hey BJ Holmes you’re a homeless man’s Acie Law and he’s putting up 12 minutes a game in the League right now, so don’t be screaming at the student section after you squeak by a team without its two best big men and no point guard even thought it plays four of them at a time.

What it means
It’s not like OSU is playing for much other than getting GIA off life support headed into next year, but the losses still sting. In a way it was kind of nice to see that dudes like JPO, Markel, Franklin, Keiton, and Dowell still give a crap about what’s going on. I guess this is the space where I mention that after the game Travis Ford said Karron Johnson will not be attending school at Oklahoma State. I think that’s probably a good thing for now even though I was rooting for him to make it, but where does that leave the program? Subtract Moses, Pilgrim, and Darrell and add LeBryan. Does that = tournament team?

Next game: Big Monday in Lawrence (yay!)

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