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OSU chills Mizzou, 76-70

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The Story
A sluggish Mizzou team (you would be too if you had their travel schedule) looked from the opening tip like they wanted no part of this OSU squad that had been backed into a corner. The Cowboys came right at them too, looking like a team desperate for its first win in two weeks.

Darrell Williams asserted himself early, pouring in 6 of OSU’s first 10 in what would provide fans and players alike some pretty vivid foreshadowing. After the game Travis Ford even said, “Darrell Williams got off to a great start. He was scoring, rebounding, playing with a lot of energy and he seemed to be around the ball a lot. His start was really big for us.”

Markel Brown, on the other hand, got into foul and turnover trouble early and proceeded to make me look like a blithering idiot after I wrote this cajoling column yesterday in which I did everything short of fan him with a palm branch and plop grapes in his mouth.

So Ray Penn got an early look and actually didn’t play half bad. He and Keiton played an effective game of hot potato up and down the court as they weaved their way through Mizzou’s stifling defense. That, coupled with OSU’s ability to neutralize (and even control!) the free throw differential provided them with a comfortable 39-31 halftime lead. By the way, if you had the under of 4 on Mizzou free throws taken in the first half please stop reading this, buy a airplane ticket to Las Vegas, and go win yourself some money.

OSU did what they had to early. They took control of possessions, didn’t let the 40 minutes of hell ever get comfortable, and maintained the momentum going into the half. Rebound from Lubbock in the first 20 minutes on Wednesday? Check.

Then, coming out of the break, they went right back at it. On the first possession in the second half Darrell Williams took an entry pass and went up strong, maybe a little too strong considering the ball careened off the back of the rim…right into the hands of Marshall Moses, who put it in for two.

This short, and seemingly unimportant possession, really set the tone for the rest of the game and carried into crunch time. Ford was basically saying, “OK, cool we have a lead, let’s open it up and stick our foot on their haggard throats.”

They weren’t devoid of withstanding runs either. The first one came at the 10-minute mark when OSU was up 14 and culminated just a tick past 6 minutes with a Marcus Denmon three to cut it to 67-62. OSU stretched it out a little bit after that though and Mizzou would only get as close as 3 during their next mini-run towards the end of the game.

During the last 10 minutes, as I said earlier, I thought Ford did a great job of pushing the offense past their default stagnant sets. They kept running and kept getting to the line. Speaking of getting to the line, how about the fact that OSU is 3-0 in the Big 12 when they shoot more FT than opponents and 0-5 when they don’t? That’s telling, no?

Moses and Darrell did a great job of looming large in the paint while staying under control. The stripes did a great job too of letting everyone play and stepping in when necessary. Good refs don’t get enough credit.

When it was over
Well, I thought it was over about 13 different times but the time I KNEW it was over was when JPO got fouled as the shot clock expired with 1:30 left and nailed both free throws. That put OSU up 6 and, barring a miracle, in a good position to ice it the rest of the way with Keiton on the line.

Player of the game
Darrell Williams was incredible, posting a 15 and 13 line on 6-11 shooting in just 31 minutes. Nolo brought up a good point when I mentioned how tired I was of riding the Matt Pilgrim emotional roller coaster. He said, “the good thing about him mailing in this season is that Darrell is getting some great minutes for next year.” The same could be said on Wednesday that because Moses got in foul trouble (what’s new?!) DW had to step into the “OK, you’re our go-to guy on the inside” and he handled it beautifully. He was dominant.

Stat I loved
JPO was 12-14 from the line. It’s not like he’s terrible on the year (76%) but it’s always good to see your ace slasher hit so many of his free throws. That’s going to be huge for this team from here on out because they have to start controlling the free throw situation in general.

The rest of my notes

  • Jon Sciambi looks like Conan crossed with Chris Farley, or was that just me?
  • Why does JPO look like he’s getting shot in the hip when he takes jumpers?
  • Markel has such a great eye for tossing great passes, it’s such an understated skill and he’s incredible at it. And yes, I saw all the brutal ones he throw, I just get a little irrational about how good he can be.
  • I don’t understand why we continue to run Keiton at the point, what part of that makes sense? It kind of makes me mad at Ford. Either put Markel through the fire or swallow your pride and run Penn back out there but don’t keep putting the onus on Keiton.
  • How many dunks has Pilgrim missed this year?
  • Sometimes I wonder if the best offense we can run is just have Keiton stand on Pete’s head and launch it every time down…
  • At one point OSU had Dowell, Penn, Pilgrim, Page, and Sidorakis in the game. I typed a few curse words in my notes that I won’t repeat on here.
  • One thing I should have added in my post yesterday about Markel is that he always has his body under control. Even when he’s all over the place and doesn’t know what he’s going to do with the ball his body is calm and quiet. And he jumped out of the gym a few times gathering boards ans swatting shots.
  • For my ESPN3-watching homies – do we really need 7 people on the halftime show breaking down the three extra NCAA tournament spots?
  • How about Penn’s Stephen Strasburg impression when he threw one about 97 right at JPO’s face on a fast break? They cut to Ford on the sideline and I thought they were going to have to blur out his mouth like they do on those cops shows but instead he was clapping and screaming, “good job Ray!!” Maybe he was being sarcastic?
  • We were watching Mizzou get off the OSU bus they had to ride in and Mrs. Pistols said, “that’s a cute little sweater” about something one of their guys was wearing. I don’t really have anything to add to that, just thought I’d pass it along.
  • The possession when Penn went to the hoop and basically just spun around and fell down and Pilgrim grabbed it with 5 seconds left on the shot clock and threw it off the side of the backboard was a pretty good snapshot of how both of their seasons are going.
  • They had to put that freaking “here’s the school record for consecutive free throws” graphic up right before Keiton missed, didn’t they?
  • I actually wrote this at one point during the second half: Pilgrim is like one of those wooden mind-bender games you buy at gift shops in tourist towns that’s like one of the coolest toys you’ve ever owned but dually, and mind-numbingly, frustrating because of your inability to solve it.

What does it mean
Well, for now all it means is that the Colorado and Tech losses suddenly become about 20x more frustrating. OSU finally has its first “good win” to put on the tourney resume but the deadline for turning that resume might have already passed. Essentially, they have to beat OU at home on Saturday and Nebraska in Lincoln next week before heading to Austin. It’s starting to become a numbers game and the Pokes have too many of them in the L column. This was big though, for the sliver of a chance they have of getting in the dance as well as for the confidence of these guys going forward. They needed it, the freeloading crowd needed it, I think we all needed it.

Next game: Bedlam on Saturday at GIA

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