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Cowboys down Huskers in heart-stopper, 53-52




The Story
I had to “watch” the first half of this one from the office today and I seriously thought ESPN’s Gamecast was broken or inverted or something. The Cowboys came out like gangbusters (is that still a phrase?) hitting their first five 3-pointers and leaping out to a 25-11 lead.

Then in the next 16:12 they scored exactly 9 points. That’s a pretty extreme scoring drought, even for this year’s team.

I was prepared to write the “this game is a microcosm of the season as a whole” post and talk about how OSU started out hot in 2010 and wilted down the conference stretch. And really, I think the analogy still applies because, just like they have for the entirety of this year, OSU hung in and took jabs from the Huskers all afternoon. Thankfully, “the team formerly known as the Big 12’s most tradition-rich football school” didn’t have a haymaker in them and the smallest guy on the court put them on the ropes.

With 4:50 left and the Cowboys reeling, down 48-44, Keiton Page drilled a whip-quick three off a screen from Matt Pilgrim to pull OSU within one. Then 50 seconds later he hit another, deeper, more desperate one to put the Pokes up for good.

Not that it didn’t get interesting.

Matt Pilgrim went over Lance Jeter’s back with 35 seconds left to send the Huskers’ leading scorer to the line. I didn’t love the foul but I liked Jeter having to hit free throws more than Nebraska having a chance to hit a game-tying three with a lot of time left. Any time this OSU team can get into a free throw shooting contest with its opponents, I’m all for it.

Which brings us to this: after Jeter sank both to make it 51-50, Pilgrim threw the inbounds pass to the Big 12’s leading FT shooter, Keiton Page Markel Brown, yes he who shoots 55% from the line. I faux-cursed via Twitter and Brown promptly sank both to put the Cowboys back up three. The lesson as always…I know nothing.

Nebraska hit another bucket to get back within one before OSU got the ball to Keiton to ice it. Except that he missed the front end of a one-and-one and the Huskers got it back with 16 seconds left (more Twitter curses). Jeter finally stumbled in the lane as time ran out and the Cowboys continued their 9-game first-round-of-the-Big-12-tournament winning streak.

How OSU could have lost
Pilgrim and Moses were monsters in the last ten minutes. They grabbed every loose board and got the ball to who needed to be getting it at the end of the game. There’s no way OSU would have won without their prowess on the glass.

Player of the game
Markel Brown – I don’t care what the rest of his stats were (9-3-2-1-2 in case you were wondering) because for a freshman to step up with 34 seconds left in his first postseason game trying to protect a 1-point lead with two free throws is ridiculous. To do so when you’re a 55% FT shooter is a sign of things to come. That I don’t think he bent his knees for either free throw is beside the point. Markel Brown is my new Justin Gilbert. I also thought it was interesting that Ford went with him as the de facto point guard in the last five minutes. Reger didn’t play terribly but I guess Ford just trusts Brown that much. He certainly didn’t do anything to prove Ford wrong.

When it was over
When Jeter stumbled to the floor in front of his basket and the ball squirted away. Quick aside: the moment when OSU’s five on the floor started running towards their bench for the celebration and Pilgrim abruptly turned around to help Jeter off the floor was one of the classiest things I’ve ever seen. That combined with Pilgrim revealing he wants to be an author in the Tulsa World this morning aren’t doing much to dispel my fascination with him.

The rest of my notes

  • That pull-up J Keiton hits at the top of the key is terrific.
  • Is it just me or does Reid Gettys sounds like he’s sitting in the upper deck about 4 brews deep with 15 of his college buddies around him?
  • I really don’t need Brandon Ubell hitting heat check threes.
  • Andre Almeida has lost 50 lbs. since joining Nebraska?!? If you would have given me a fill-in-the-blank question that went, “Andre Almeida has _______ 50 lbs. since arriving in Lincoln” “lost” would not have been one of my first ten choices.
  • Gettys’ Olajuwon impression was literally the worst thing I’ve ever heard. He sounded like Larry Bird crossed with Shaq, but if that person sniffed glue as a kid.
  • I loved the girl coming out of the 8-minute TO screaming for her Cowboys. I feel sorry for the rest of her life but loved seeing it.
  • Pistols Sis texted me at the beginning of the game, “does Keiton have a hickey?” — it kind of looked like he did.
  • Call me insane (since we are 6-10) but I always get nervous at the end of these games, I’m not sure if that will ever fully go away.
  • That baseline turnaround fadeaway Pilgrim had was disgusting, that’s not a move an average basketball player makes.
  • Keiton should just send the tape of that last dribble up the court through four guys to the Harlem Globetrotters for his tryout (as I was in the middle of writing this sentence Armstrong stole my joke on-air)
  • How much is Lance Jeter going to weigh in 5 years? Where can I wager on “north of 275”?

What does it mean
OSU gets mighty KU tomorrow. The two teams have combined for 6 of the last 7 Big 12 tournament titles. I know for most of the country this will mean little other than to showcase what Self’s squad is going to do over the next three weeks and what OSU is incapable of accomplishing. Disregard that for a moment though and consider that OSU has a chance to do what no other university has ever done – win four straight and capture the Big 12 tourney. Disregard the rest of the season and the fact that the Cowboys don’t have a go-to scorer or crunch time point guard to speak of and remember that this Oklahoma State squad is 40 minutes from getting lost in the madness of March.

Next game: OSU faces Kansas tomorrow — same time, same arena.

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