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February 3, 2011Oklahoma State needed a big win over a quality opponent to get itself back on track.
Mission accomplished for the Cowboys, as they bested No. 15 Missouri, 76-70, in front of a solid weather-limited crowd of 10,515 inside Gallagher-Iba Arena Wednesday night.
OSU (15-7 overall, 3-5 Big 12), losers of three straight and five of the past six, was in dire need of a victory after the past few games, including a one-point overtime loss at Texas Tech over the weekend. The opponent, Mizzou, was in search of its first conference road win of the season.
The Cowboys prevented the Tigers (17-5, 3-5) from picking up that Big 12 road win, as the two teams traded baskets in the early going before the Pokes started to open up a lead in the last part of the first half. OSU enjoyed an 18-17 lead at the 10-minute mark in the first, then expanded that lead to eight points with less than three minutes to go in the frame. A Keiton Page three-pointer with 43 seconds left put the Cowboys up 39-30 going into halftime.
In the second half, the Pokes did a good job surviving Mizzou's full-court press and also survived a late run from the Tigers on offense. With about 10 minutes left to go in the game, OSU was up 16 points (61-46) and seemingly had the game in hand. But a 7-2 Tiger run a few minutes later cut the OSU advantage to five with 5:30 to go. And as the clock went under a minute in the game, the Tigers were down 73-70. But Page and Jean-Paul Olukemi hit three free throws in the waning seconds to secure the victory or OSU.
And a snowy, icy and bitterly cold evening was a sweet one for Travis Ford and Co.
"It was a good win for our team," Ford said. "I have a lot of respect for Mike Anderson and this Missouri team. For us it was good to get a win because they're a very good team. It was important because we haven't been real happy with our basketball play. We have been happy with how hard we've been working and how hard we've been competing. We just haven't been playing very good basketball. Tonight I thought we played better. Tonight Missouri pressed us and trapped us more than any other team they've played this year."
And despite all the pressing and trapping from the Tigers, OSU played some of its cleanest ball of the season.
"We only turned the ball over 11 times and that was the key," Ford said. "When you only have 11 turnovers against Missouri that means a lot. It means you're getting more opportunities to score and it's taking them out of transition and those are two key areas."
That, a solid field goal percentage (44.9) and clutch free throw shooting from both Olukemi (12-of-14) and Page (8-of-9) were the difference-makers in this game.
"Tonight is what we have been striving for," Page said. "It was a complete team effort. Everybody came in and had chances to make big plays and made them while they were in. That is what it takes in this league, to make big plays while you are in the game."
On the evening, Page scored 19 points, as did Olukemi. And in a very solid 31 minutes of play, Darrell Williams scored 15 points and posted 13 rebounds.
"Darrell Williams got off to a great start," Ford said. "He was scoring, rebounding, playing with a lot of energy and he seemed to be around the ball a lot. His start was really big for us. He set the tone for us because he hasn't been playing like that. He gets everyone else going. He did a good job of playing with great energy and I think some of the other guys fed off that."
While the Cowboys might have fed off Williams' night, the Tigers struggled just to get to Stillwater. Because of the bad weather ranging from Texas up through Illinois, Mizzou needed two days to get to Stillwater. That included a long wait at Kansas City International Airport and a bus ride from Oklahoma City in an orange OSU bus.
"I don't want to make excuses, but at the same time, I thought it was a little different than the schedule that we normally have," Anderson said. "We flew in today and it seemed like it took is a while to get in a rhythm. I didn't think we had the rhythm, especially early on. I thought in the second half, it was more like our team, but by that time, we'd dug a hole for ourselves. Again, give some credit to Oklahoma State. I thought we could've played a whole lot better than we did."
Next up for the Cowboys is Bedlam in Stillwater on Saturday. That game is set for a 12:30 p.m. start.
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