Missouri Punishes Undermanned Oklahoma State TeamPosted by dnspewak on March 8th, 2012
Danny Spewak is a Big 12 Microsite writer and will provide wall-to-wall coverage of the Big 12 Tournament from the Sprint Center in Kansas City this weekend. He filed this piece after Missouri’s. You can follow him on Twitter @dspewak.
With his team trailing by 22 points by the first media timeout of the second half Thursday, Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford clapped his hands eight times and grimaced, resigned to the fact his team’s season would end in less than 16 minutes. It was a minor miracle his team even defeated Oklahoma on Wednesday and had the opportunity to lose to Missouri, 88-70, in the quarterfinals. “I think fatigue was a little bit of a factor,” Ford said. “I think Missouri played up on that. That was probably something they talked about: ‘hey, Oklahoma State doesn’t have a whole lot of players… let’s go at them early.” Want the full rundown of OSU’s adversity this season? Start with this: Star freshman Le’Bryan Nash and big man Philip Jurick aren’t playing in this tournament due to injury. Two of his point guards, Reger Dowell and Fred Gulley, transferred within two weeks of each other before Big 12 play began. J.P. Olukemi hasn’t played in months after tearing his knee up. This is also a team playing Brian Williams out of position at the four and using Markel Brown to run the point at times.
But the Tigers didn’t care. They’ve got their own issues to worry about, like winning a Big 12 Tournament title and earning a top seed in the NCAA Tournament. They roared to a 49-24 halftime lead, looking like athletes from another planet. Missouri dominated the boards and dominated defensively, with Phil Pressey getting his hands on every basketball that came his way. The sophomore point guard finished with five steals. “I’m just playing defense the way I know how to play,” Pressey said. “That’s what my coaches want me to do. And I came out with some steals.” As usual, the Tigers shared the ball and knocked down open three-pointer after open three-pointer, using what Kim English called “Pete Carril” ball movement to shoot nearly 60% from the field. “We had tremendous ball movement. Good ball movement relieves the tension of the offense,” English said, as his coach winked at him for such an astute observation.
By the time the second half rolled around, the deflated Cowboys looked helpless. In his final game, senior Keiton Page knocked down shots, but not nearly enough to keep his team in contention. The lead grew larger and larger for Missouri, all the way to 29 when Marcus Denmon threw down a monstrous dunk on a putback after a missed three-pointer. Page, who finished with 22 points, exited to a standing ovation from everybody in the arena — not just the Oklahoma State section. “It’s been the best,” Page said. “Just a million memories I’ll never forget.”
He’ll probably want to forget Thursday night, though. The Tigers advance to face the winner of Iowa State and Texas in Friday’s semifinals, with Kansas still looming on the other side of the bracket. “If we just try to play our best defensive possession and get a good shot on each offensive possession, then I think we can have a chance to win a lot of ballgames,” English said. Spoken like a true follower of Pete Carril.