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OSU Hangs On Against Tech, 70-68

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The Story
Ford made a not-so-subtle starting lineup change, benching JPO and inserting Sophomore Reger Dowell. Both responded with fantastic games. It was a great move even if they hadn’t, one that needed to be made.

OSU jumped out to a quick 20-8 lead over the Red Raiders and it seemed as if this one wouldn’t be close at the end. It wasn’t necessarily that they were hitting every shot, but how easily they were putting themselves in position to make high-percentage shots. Sidorakis hitting Moses on a running baseline layup, Dowell getting floaters off the glass, JPO getting to the paint and sinking shots. It all looked so…simple.

Of course with Oklahoma State nothing can ever be as easy or as rudimentary as it seems like it should be. Even the wins are beleaguered. Tech got back within striking distance (36-31, OSU) by halftime and OSU’s 8-man rotation looked haggard. Ford even mentioned it after the game, saying,

We’ve got some guys out there that are tired that we’ve asked a lot out of this year, but they found a way to get a win.

That’s what happens when you have 7 players playing 189 minutes (Markel only logged 11), the Penn/Williams suspensions are starting to bear down on these guys.

Keiton, for as mentally tough and physically resilient as he is, played about as badly as I’ve ever seen him play. 1-10 from the field, when your only discernible collegiate basketball skill is shooting, isn’t going to get it done. Ford acknowledged the poor performance afterward, even taking a bit of the blame,

I’ve seen it in practice too. And how could you not expect it? I’ve talked to him about it. I said, ‘Keiton, you look tired. You’ve got to get your rest every night. I will do everything I can to make sure you can get your rest in between practices and stuff like that.’ Here’s a guy I’m asking to play 38 minutes a game and he gives it everything he’s got.

I got a few tweets and texts about Ford getting him out of there at the end of the game and I would have agreed if he wasn’t the only great free throw shooter OSU has. You can’t take a guy out who shoots 90% from the line in a close game. You can’t have Markel Brown shooting free throws with a minute left.

The second half was even more staggered than the first. OSU jumped up 50-41 pretty quickly before a 15-point run by Tech found them staring at a 56-51 deficit heading into the home stretch.

The Cowboys finally managed to crawl out of their self-inflicted 5-point hole with eight minutes left but couldn’t pull ahead by more than one until the last minute.

JPO, who was massive in this one, hit a little hanging bank shot, got the foul, and put the Pokes up one on his free throw with 26 seconds left. Tech brought it down, handed it to their Senior star, Mike Singletary, who promptly walked across the court with it and gave it back to the Cowboys. Tech then fouled and JPO made the first of two to put OSU up by that same margin.

A last second NBA three by Roberson was errant and the 6,000 faithful at GIA let out a collective sigh of relief.

When it was over
I should start writing about when games should be over because this one should have been with about 10 minutes in the first half. Tech was practically begging to be buried early and OSU just couldn’t do it. In actuality it wasn’t over until Roberson’s three drew iron with 0:00 on the clock, and even then I was half-expecting some crazy spinning bounce off the top of the backboard and back down through the hoop. That would have been fun.

How OSU could have lost
As big as JPO was I really thought Moses and Pilgrim kept the Cowboys in this one. A combined 23 points on 11-16 shooting and 17 boards were huge. Pilgrim especially, played resoundingly, as if he couldn’t bear the thought of losing one of his final two games ever at GIA.

While we’re here, can somebody at OSU, a sociology major perhaps, perform some sort of case study on that guy? He has absolutely zero reason to come out and play hard. The season is, for all intents and purposes, over and I’m sure these guys are thinking about graduation and post-college hoops plans. And yet he comes out and sticks a 9-10-2-2-3 line up in a half-full arena on a Saturday afternoon in a game nobody cares about it. I’m proud of that, and he should be too. I know Marshall was,

Matt (Pilgrim) probably played his best game of the year because of how hard he played and how intimidating he was when he was on the floor – the plays he made and the rebounds he got.

Player of the game
JPO, hands down. Ford obviously lit a fire under him with the benching and he responded with a 20-point performance in just 23 minutes. Ford’s quote after the game was telling too,

Again, as I’ve told him, ‘if I didn’t think you could be a pro, if I didn’t think you could eventually be one of the best players in this league, then I wouldn’t be down on you.’

I think he’s starting to learn that he can get to the lane against any defender in the league and to do so behooves him as well as the team.

JPO is not a three-point shooter. Heck, nobody on this team is a three-point shooter besides Keiton and even he’s been a little spotty of late. I think the 2-15 mark from beyond the arc tells that story adequately. So it was good to see JPO beat his man to the paint and unleash his barrage of tilted running jumpers and floaters. He’s more athletic than 90% of the league and that becomes very obvious when he’s contorting his body in mid-air to get in position for those shots. OSU wouldn’t have won without him today.

Stat that explained it
15 assists – that’s the third most all year and by far the most in any conference game. OSU moved the ball so well in the first half it was incredible. I couldn’t even believe this was the same team we’d been watching all year. There was a bit of a regression to the mean in the second half but still.

The rest of my notes

  • Is Lewandowski¬† made of porcelain? I feel like if anyone even breathed on him they got a foul called.
  • Dowell started getting the Rondo treatment and considering his banks and airballs I’d say the shooting performance against A&M was an aberration although his overall performance wasn’t.
  • Manzer said OSU had time to put in a full-court defense after the KU game, because they haven’t had time the last 6 months?
  • Sidorakis is a really underrated passer.
  • Hey Chad Mckee, a 4-0 run does not mean you need to say “here come the Red Raiders!”
  • I love Franklin, I know he’s not that great and doesn’t have a specific strong skill but I just love the way he plays.
  • Announcers in general need to do a better job of making points and sticking by them. At one point McKee asked Manzer what he thought about the chances Nebraska had of making the tournament and by the end of the conversation I couldn’t tell if Nebraska was 29-0 or 2-27 with how much they were waffling back and forth.
  • Pat Knight does not look like someone who will be coaching at Texas Tech next year.
  • The illegal screen streak lives!
  • Dowell does things for the offense beyond assists and point. He opens thing up for everyone else.
  • Keiton setting back screens is brilliant because teams are worried about jumping out on him and lose the guy going to the hoop.
  • I’ve seen the arena half full but I’ve never seen the student section half full like it was. It looked like a women’s game.
  • They played so many “Limitless” commercials I went from wanting to see it at the beginning of the game to never wanting to see Bradley Cooper in anything ever again by the end of it.
  • It was a star-studded afternoon in GIA with Zac Robinson, Obi Muonelo, and Justin Blackmon in the house.
  • One of my pet peeves is coaches calling a TO with 20 seconds left to draw up a play. I’d like to see stats on how often it works.
  • Manzer said Dowell needed to show more poise than he did in taking the running J with 1 minute left in the lane. I love your dad Bryndan, but I disagree. I love Dowell going at people. I don’t need Keiton hoisting desperation treys at the end of the shot clock.

What it means
Marshall Moses screaming in jubilation after a put-back in a half-empty arena in his second to last game at home to get to 5 conference wins was a sad scene. But you know what? This team gives a crap even if its fans don’t. Pilgrim played like a man, Dowell had his third straight “wait, who is this guy again?” game, Moses always shows up, Keiton was dragging but never gave up, Sidorakis flew around the court, Franklin fought for every board, and JPO looked like he wanted to prove to Travis Ford that he should never ever be benched again.

Sure, these guys aren’t going to the Dance and they’re probably one of the least talented teams to take the court in Stillwater in the last decade. But they care, and it shows, and you can’t ask for much more than that.

Next game
At home on Tuesday (Senior night) against Baylor

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