Originally Published: Mar 10, 2011 5:55 PM CDT
It was the type of effort that Cowboy fans, coaches and players can all take pride in. It's also given everyone to wonder what could have been if that effort and execution had been in place for a critical stretch in the middle of Big 12 regular season play. OSU would be making plans for the NCAA Tournament if not for the inconsistencies and difficult offensive halves that resulted in a 6-10 record in league play. But then there are reasons for where the Cowboys are instead of where they want to be.
Thursday was another example of Jean-Paul Olukemi's impact on this Cowboy squad. His aggressiveness and anticipation led to 17 points and 3 steals. We've said it all season long, he's the x-factor. When Olukemi plays well, the Cowboys win (or come excruciatingly close). When he struggles, OSU can't find success against good teams. The hope for Travis Ford and Cowboy fans is that this latest performance is a sign that he's turned the corner and will provide a consistent threat in the NIT, next season and beyond.
Keiton Page's performance? Savvy, sneaking through defenders to knock down leaners in the lane, drawing fouls. Kansas is far from being the best DEFENSIVE team in the nation, but they put their best perimeter guys on Page and he still scored. Credit Olukemi for taking some of that pressure off of Page by forcing the Jayhawks to respect his ability to finish.
As for the final play, there are those who wonder why Page didn't at least touch the ball in that situation. Some figure he would have at least been able to draw a foul. Kansas was switching all screens on the perimeter, with Page blanketed. It's one situation where his lack of height may have been the difference. One example- at the end of overtime in Lubbock, Page flew down the floor for a potential game-tying jumper before the shot was blocked by 6-5 Mike Singletary (who really didn't have to leave the floor). Page himself said after the Kansas game that the play OSU tried to run had worked at least twice earlier in the game. Kansas simply did to OSU what OSU had done to Nebraska on Wednesday.
There's a sense that while there's major disappointment in not taking down the top seed, this Cowboy team will play hard in the NIT.
Then again, from game to game it's been a mystery for Ford and the fans as to which OSU team will show up. The Cowboys always play hard. It's the decision-making and the shot-making that is tough to predict.