Cowboys Basketball: Give 'Em A Hand

Oklahoma State fans were anxious to watch Tuesday night's game against No. 19 Texas. I was no different because I love the study of human nature and this team, what remained of it, was facing a huge challenge. I like to see how young men react in the face of adversity. What I saw, honestly, from a basketball standpoint didn't please me. However, what I saw from a human spirit standpoint did.

The Oklahoma State Cowboys were thrashed pretty good by Texas 87-68. But after trailing the three-point sizzling shooting Longhorns at halftime 54-33, the Cowboys behind the likes of walk-ons Christian Sager and Mason Cox playing major minutes in the second half outscored the nationally ranked Horns.

It will not go down as one of the Oklahoma State basketball's finest moments, but the effort was there. Not just from Sager and Cox, but Le'Bryan Nash played all 40 minutes and played hard, scoring 23 points and pulling down six rebounds. Kamari Murphy had a double-double with 10 points and 10 boards.

Markel Brown did not have his best shooting night but he played hard and he was in the game for 39 minutes. Just as the OSU players tweeted earlier in the day, Cowboys you don't want to give up on these fellas.

I saw what I wanted. I saw some guys that care. I saw those guys give great effort and not give up. I also saw a few times the look of shock on their face in the first half when they looked up at the scoreboard.

One time, the look on Markel's face showed he had to be thinking, "What's happened to us? How could this season be going down this way?" He still played hard, even with a heavy heart mourning the direction of this season, but not using it as an excuse to let down.

Nobody is to blame for Michael Cobbins' Achilles injury, and you can't blame his teammates for Stevie Clark's poor judgment and immaturity. Marcus Smart has taken the responsibility, as he should, for the mistake he made in Lubbock.

These players that busted their tails at Texas, regardless of the scoreboard, should be proud of themselves, and OSU fans proud of them too.

I know you think I'm coming back with this "Pollyanna" positive column because I'm trying to make up for the slam I took from a poster on the premium board over the fact that I love football and I like to slam or ignore basketball. No, I just try to be fair and realistic.

I love basketball too. I treasure the traditions of Eddie Sutton and what his teams accomplished. I am friends with many of those players and I used to call some of their games when the likes of Adrian Peterson, Chianti Roberts, Brian Montonati, Brett Robisch, Joe Adkins and Doug Gottlieb played for the Oklahoma Storm of the USBL. Those were fun times.

These are not fun times for Oklahoma State basketball. The human spirit and the effort of the players was genuine, admirable and appreciated. The lack of a bench was not. This team has players, either because of poor judgment in recruiting or lack of development upon arrival, that can't help. They are players that struggle playing the game at this level.

But Nash, Brown, Phil Forte, and even Marcus Smart in his absence, are not to blame for that.

I've said it on radio and I'll write it here in print that the middle of February is no time to debate a coach. I have always believed and still do that the time to evaluate a coach, the direction of a program, and what needs to be done is after the season is over.

This season, as bleak as the halftime score at Texas looked, still has a chance and some of that is based on the effort and spirit of the players. There will be a little more bench after Smart returns and a late run could get the Cowboys on the right side of the bubble. It will be chore.

I was told earlier this week that basketball has a greater and longer tradition than football at Oklahoma State. That writer was correct on the fact, but it is that fact that has cost Oklahoma State over the years and recently took over $200 million to correct.

Football was left to survive on just the efforts of a few brave and talented players over the years and most years at Oklahoma State it did not survive well. Now it is thriving, so much so that a 10-win season can be a source of frustration for some fans.

It is basketball that is struggling, at least with where fans believe it should consistently be on the competitive landscape. I tend to agree with them. But this I know, while it took many millions and roughly a decade of consistent hard work and effort from coaches, players, and others in the program to get football in its current position, basketball won't need quite as much money or time to get back. Good decisions will help basketball have a brighter immediate future.


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