January 6, 2009

Gutting it Out: OSU struggles in win

STILLWATER- Dropping his orange tie on the side of the table, Travis Ford sat down in front of the media, collected his thoughts for a moment, then spoke.

What he had to say summed up what was an off night for Oklahoma State.

"I'm just glad to get that game over with," Ford said. "Obviously it wasn't our best effort, wasn't our best - we didn't execute overly well. But we went on enough little spurts to spread the game open a little bit. I don't want to take anything away from Savannah State, but we didn't play as well as we had been playing, that's for sure."

It might have not been pretty, but it was a win, as the Cowboys slogged through a game that at times went as slowly as molasses, picking up an 83-56 decision in front of 4,405 fans inside Gallagher-Iba Arena.

Things got off to a slow start for the Pokes (11-3). The only player providing any offense in the early going was James Anderson, who had nine points in the first 5:06 of the game (finishing with 23). At that point, OSU was up 14-6 and in position to open things up some.

That didn't happen, as Savannah State (7-8) managed to hang on and claw to keep things close in the first half. The Pokes were up 14 points with 5:34 to go in the first, but weren't able to extend that. At the break, OSU was up 38-26, though that score might have felt like 38-36 in the Cowboy locker room.

"Yeah, I wasn't happy at halftime at all," Ford said. "I thought we played very selfish. We were just going through the motions in the first half and some guys got some silly fouls. We just weren't ourselves."

In the first few minutes of the second frame, the Pokes were able to build an 18-point lead, but that fell back down to 12 just a few minutes later. But a batch of three-pointers from 13:31 to 6:44 helped extend the lead to 21. In that span, OSU's only field goals came from beyond the arc. Of those, Anderson had the first two, Obi Muonelo sank a trio of his own and Keiton Page made another for good measure. OSU would push the advantage to as high as 31 points (80-49) with 2:35 to go before finally settling on the 27-point win.

But that margin is deceiving. While OSU looked crisp on both sides of the ball to start the game, they never really regained that composure, eventually turning in a scattered, sloppy performance. After the last few games, it could be viewed as a step back. But was it?

"I wouldn't say it was a setback,"said Byron Eaton, who finished with 16 points. "I would just say that I think we took the team lightly. We heard that they had scored I think 29 and 37 points the last two outings and we didn't play to our potential."

"It was just one of those games," Ford said. "We didn't really make a lot of threes - we made 11, but we didn't make a lot early. I thought we played selfishly early in the game, in the first half in particular. But it was good just to win and get it over with. Hopefully you learn a lesson because obviously we can't play like that and expect to succeed from this point on. It'd be a good tape to go back and watch and the guys could see a lot of things they are doing wrong and could correct them hopefully before Saturday."

Saturday, of course, is the beginning of the real season. OSU will open the Big 12 slate at home that night, an 8 p.m. tip-off against Texas A&M.

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