Originally Published: Feb 8, 2011 5:49 PM CDT
Its tough to know how the Cowboys will respond once they get to Lincoln to face a much-improved Nebraska team Saturday night. Travis Fords team had made strides going back to the loss to Texas, improving bit by bit on the defensive end and attacking the basket on the offensive end. The hard work started paying off in the wins over Missouri and OU.
Some of that was accomplished because of more consistent play from Darrell Williams. Now, with Williams out while his legal situation is being addressed, the Cowboys must find a way to replace his production.
The first answer would seem to rest with senior forward Matt Pilgrim. He appears to have snapped out of a slump, although just glancing at his numbers on a stat sheet would suggest otherwise. Pilgrims effort has been more consistent, his attitude positive, and his willingness to make hustle plays invaluable. Can he also add numbers to the effort? The Cowboys need it. They also need Marshall Moses to rediscover the form he had earlier in the season. At his best, Moses is too quick for bigger defenders, and strong enough to bull his way into position down low. There was a point this season where it seemed his left-handed hook shot couldn't miss. Lately, the accuracy has been off a bit.
Keiton Pages decision to attack on the dribble more is also opening things up for teammates. Even if he gets a few driving layups blocked, the potential reward for making defenses collapse is too valuable to pass up.
Jean-Paul Olukemi has to be consistent in the 2nd half of the Big 12 season. Without the "good" JP, the Cowboys will struggle. And if freshman Markel Brown can continue to accelerate his learning curve, the Cowboys have a chance to stay in the NCAA Tournament discussion.
As for who replaces Williams? Aside from the collective effort, Roger Franklin and perhaps Jarred Shaw will have to provide quality minutes.
Sometimes, losing a key player makes everyone else more focused. Sometimes though, that works best only in the short-run. The Cowboys need to hammer out a longer-term solution, starting with this weekend.