Cowboy's win overtime with 36 pts from J. Graham

Less than 24 hours before playing the game of his life, Joey Graham admitted that sometimes he wonders how he does some of the things he does. He knows he has a gift, and he is thankful for it, he said. A day later, the 6-foot-7 junior was pumping in 36 points in an overtime victory against Nebraska and extending O-State's winning streak to 11 games. It was the ninth-highest scoring effort in OSU history and the most since Randy Rutherford hit Kansas for 45 points in a 1995 loss.

OSSR: You came to OSU from Central Florida because you wanted to challenge yourself with a higher level of basketball. To what extent has that happened?

Joey Graham: I don't think it gets too much better than this Big 12 competition. This is great basketball, and that's what I came here for. Coming from Central Florida, we had maybe 200 people in the gym. Then we came here and we've got 13-14,000 every game. What a tremendous experience I've had. I thank the Lord every day for the opportunity to play here.

OSSR: It's hard to say any one player is a fan favorite on this team, but any time you get the ball in the open floor, do you sense the crowd coming to its feet?

JG: I think so. I'm an exciting player, you know? When I come down, I can make things happen. I'm a showtime player when I get the ball in my hands, it's a good thing for the fans to stand up, because I think I can make something big happen when I get the ball in my hands. I just pretty much try to take advantage of all the opportunities that are handed to me. A lot of times when I get the ball, the opponent underestimates me, I guess, and I just take advantage of the situation.

OSSR: Have you surprised yourself at all so far? What about the Texas game?

JG: I have in some ways, but I know in my heart, I have a lot of confidence, and I know can do a lot of things that I've been doing, and I thank the Lord for that. Some of the things I do, I wonder how I do it. The Texas game, it was just about going out there and playing hard. I think I established myself at the beginning, and things kind of flowed after that. Things started opening up and the game just started coming to me.

OSSR: What was your best dunk (prior to the Nebraska game)?

JG: I think it was the University of Texas-San Antonio. I dunked on a 6-11 dude. He tried to block me on the baseline and I jumped over top of him.

OSSR: What was your second-favorite?

JG: Kansas. Wayne Simien came out on me and I faked him and kind of went around him, and the lane just kind of opened up, so I just took advantage of it and went in and dunked it.

OSSR: It would seem if you have a weakness, it would be staying out of foul trouble. Why is that?

JG: I think it's because I'm playing the post and I give up a lot of size and a lot of height, and so I pick up a lot of cheap fouls trying to compensate for the lack of size. I think because of my strength I can get around bigger guys and play great defense.

OSSR: Describe for fans the difference between your game and Stevie's game.

JG: Stevie's more of a shooter. I'm more of a slasher that drives to the basket. Stevie's a great shooter who comes off screens or one-two dribble jumpers. He's real accurate. I'm more of a driver. I'm a little bit taller and my post game's a little stronger, but he can post up as well.

OSSR: Are you a little disappointed that Stevie's minutes have declined?

JG: I am, but Stevie understands his role and he knows his time will come. We have some great perimeter players out here right now, and we compete every day to see who's going to start the games. He sees some talent day in and day out.

OSSR: What's it going to take for him to get 20 or more minutes a game like you have?

JG: From the beginning, coach said he was kind of careless with the ball, so if he stops being careless with and continues what he's doing – playing great defense and making big-time shots – he'll get some more minutes.

OSSR: When both the coaches and the media picked you guys to finish fifth in the Big 12, did that motivate you at all, or are even the players on this team surprised now by how far you've come?

JG: It motivated us, most definitely. Every preseason we're underrated, and that lets us know that we have to prove ourselves and work extra hard to get where we want to be, and so far I think we're doing that. We're playing great defense and making things happen on the floor, and I think the sky's the limit for us. If we continue to do that, good things will happen for this team.

OSSR: What's the single most important factor in the team's success so far?

JG: I think our defense. We get out every day in practice and concentrate on our defense. We try to make a team make as many mistakes as possible. We're a long, extended, running team, and we love to run in transition. Because of our defense, it makes for a lot of easy baskets.

OSSR: Now that we've seen how good this team can be, what do you think could keep the Cowboys out of the Final Four?

JG: Right now we really don't look that far ahead because we . . . concentrate day by day at what we have at hand. If we continue to play how we're playing, I think the Final Four is in our future.

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