Ford: Page Doesn't Get Respect He Deserves

There are plenty of factors one can point to when detailing Oklahoma State's 66-58 loss to Kansas State on Saturday and coach Travis Ford did his best to address them in the postgame press conference. He handled all the questions in stride but one line of questioning really pushed his buttons near the end.

The Cowboys were destroyed on the boards 50-29 and the Wildcats pulled down 22 offensive rebounds to the tune of 18 second-chance points.

"I don't even want to talk about the rebounding anymore," Ford said, clearly referring to how its been talked about ad nauseam.

K-State dictated the flow of the game with its physical play against a Cowboy team not built to handle such a tilt.

"When the game is going to be played like that we're going to struggle. Period," he said. "That felt like a football game more than a basketball game."

The officiating was atrocious with the final foul count (OSU 29, KSU 23) not at all painting an accurate description of how the refs impacted the game. The mix of calls that weren't made and the timing of the ones that were took OSU out of contention early and late.

"I never could get a feel for what was going to be called, and I think our guys, as well as theirs, never could grasp what was happening and how the game was going to be allowed to be played," Ford said. "There were 52 fouls in that game. My goodness, I probably could have called 102. You can't call them all, I get that."

But then Keiton Page's struggles against KSU were brought up, pouring gasoline on a fire we'd seen building within Ford throughout the entirety of an extremely frustrating, physical game.

OSU's senior captain was limited to an inefficient 17 points on 4-of-17 shooting and a disastrous 1-for-9 from 3. His only real damage before the game had been decided was done by converting 8-of-9 free throws.

Kansas State was physical with Page from tip off until the final buzzer and Ford wasn't a fan of what the Wildcats were allowed to get away with against him. Maybe it was pent-up emotions from a frustrating year, maybe it was aggravation at watching Page get blanketed on a game-by game basis or maybe it was both, but Ford unloaded and rightfully so.

"I just do not grasp why he doesn't get the respect he deserves and I'm tired of it. I'm sick of it," Ford said, clearly referring to how physical teams are allowed to be with him without being called.

"This little sucker is out there and I hear he may flail, well there is a reason. Everybody is just all over him and I know they say if they called every single foul we'd be there all night, well we might be but it's getting to be...," Ford continued, pausing to not call out the officiating. "This kid is giving it everything he's got and he can't even walk the next day. I do not think he gets the respect that he deserves on that court. I just don't get it; I don't get it.

"Keiton Page is phenomenal."

It didn't end there. One local reporter began asking a question about Page but didn't get a chance to complete it before Ford started in again.

Question: Keiton didn't have the best night but...

"How can you? Everybody's gameplan is to stop Keiton Page and bear hug him. You've been to all our games, that's what they do. They bear hug him," he said. "When he comes off screens they want to bump him. I've got friends in this league. We talk, ‘Be physical with Keiton Page.' Everybody talks about it. I know what they're doing. I guess it's human nature, you can't call them all. But c'mon. If anyone deserves it, the kid deserves it."

And frankly, Page does deserve it. He's been a polarizing figure among fans during his career but his value to this team can best be described like this: When Page struggles, the Cowboys lose. There is no player on this team who's nightly performance so directly reflects the final score.

That's no fair pressure to put on Page but it's just a fact. As Page goes, so go the Cowboys, and there was glaring evidence of it Saturday in Gallagher-Iba Arena.

And Ford wasn't the only coach in the postgame who felt passionate about Page being undervalued.

"Keiton Page is one of my favorite all-time players in my 27 years of coaching," KSU coach Frank Martin said. "I said this the other day, he might be the smallest starter in the Big 12 by stature but he has by far the biggest heart of any kid I've seen in the Big 12."

Page needs help and it seems he doesn't get it when he needs it the most. He is the only senior on the youngest team in America and nobody can fault the effort he gives in trying to lead this team during a tough time.

Ford has endorsed Page on several occasions but this one was the most fiery and passionate of them all.

"If you need a reason to come watch, come to see one of the greatest players to ever play at Oklahoma State in Keiton Page. Period." Ford said. "For what he does for us night in and night out, there's not a better player for what he's doing."

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