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December 21, 2010

A Win's a Win for Cowboys

STILLWATER - In a game that featured a little bit of everything, Oklahoma State was able to hold off Stanford 79-68 in front of 13,011 at Gallagher-Iba Arena on Tuesday night in the made-for-TV Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series.

The Cowboys (11-1) jumped out to a 9-2 lead in the first seven minutes of the game and had a nice hold on things. But the Cardinal (6-4) quickly cut down the early deficit and the first half turned into a close shave. In fact, toward the end of the first frame, Stanford slowly started to build up a lead, going from being down one point with 4:26 before the half to up six with 1:57 left. But OSU's frontcourt combo of Ray Penn and Keiton Page turned the tide before the break, with Penn hitting two three-pointers in the last 1:34 and Page nailing a desperation three from the corner as the first half expired.

The Pokes used that late first half rally as momentum in the second, as OSU built up a 14-point advantage with 10 minutes to go. While the Cardinal had some nice moments after that, the Cowboys weren't threatened seriously the rest of the way.

Coach Ford said that buzzer-beater at the half - the first connection from Page to that point - made all the difference for his team.

"I think it gave him a little bit of a boost and gave our team a boost after just coming out like gangbusters defensively," he said. "But our offense was letting us down, which in turn got our guys down a little bit defensively because we couldn't score. We were getting all these stops and we couldn't score in our own gym. And that was a little disappointing."

But that end flurry in the first half turned the Cowboys' offensive fortunes around. Shooting only 38.5 percent in the first half, OSU made half of its shots in the second frame.

"A good win for our basketball team," Ford said. "I thought Stanford played really well. I thought they regrouped after their last game and gave us a great effort. It was kind of like the Alabama game - I thought we went on just enough spurts and went on just enough runs and made just enough big shots to pull it out. I wasn't happy in the first half at all. Offensively, I thought we took a lot of bad shots in the half and defense we were beat off the dribble, which we haven't been doing. We got beat off the dribble way too many times and our rotations were bad in the first half.

"Second half, we did a better job of containing the dribble but we didn't do a great job of rotating. But I thought our defense was a little bit better even though they shot a higher percentage. We kind of gave up too many open dunks, but our offense tonight helped us out. When we shoot the ball from the three like that in this building, we've got a decent chance to be successful."

As a team, OSU shot 57.9 percent from the field, making 11 of 19 shots from beyond the arc. Five of those came from the Pawnee Pistol, who finished with 23 points. That led all scorers in the game. Penn hit three three-pointers and compiled 14 points, while Marshall Moses posted 13 points and six rebounds and Jean-Paul Olukemi scored 12 points in only 18 minutes of play.

While those stats are pretty solid, coach Ford said he worried before the game about his team coming out flat in the first half.

"I wasn't happy with shoot around," Ford said. "Guys are out of school, they probably laid around all day long before they came to shoot around and things like that, so we've as a coaching staff that we need to get them up. Usually on home games we don't meet until shoot around on the day of a home game, but they were even sluggish at shoot around in the locker room before the game."

In any event, a win is a win and OSU stands at 11-1 going into its Christmas break. Now the team will enjoy 10 days off before a tough road trip to eastern Washington against Gonzaga on New Year's Eve. That game is set for a 9 pm Central Time start on ESPN2.


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