Poke Notes: Where's Joey Gone?

Priority No. 1 for the OSU coaching staff the next few days will be trying to figure out why Joey Graham was a non-factor for the Cowboys in their first two games of the NCAA Tournament.

Graham, who a week ago was named most valuable player of the Big 12 Tournament, played his worst games of the season against Southern Illinois and Southeastern Louisiana. The 6-foot-7 forward scored just eight points (on 3-of-6 shooting) and added just three rebounds while playing but 22 points in Sunday's win over Southern Illinois. He played just 18 minutes against Southeastern Louisiana, finishing with seven points and two rebounds.

"He's gotten so non-aggressive at both ends of the floor, and I don't know what's wrong with him," OSU head coach Eddie Sutton said. "I told him you're costing yourself a lot of money. Those NBA scouts are at every one of our games.

"We've got two days to get him straightened out. We can't win against Arizona or Illinois or teams like that unless we get him to play," OSU head coach Eddie Sutton said. "And John (Lucas) has got to defend better than he's been. Those two guys are our two best players -- not that Ivan isn't – (but) we depend on both of them. John didn't play very good defense, and still didn't shoot the ball very well. I'm not saying he didn't play a bad game, but we expect more out of him.

"I don't know what's wrong with Joey. We put him in there late (against Southern Illinois) and he made three mistakes before I could get him back out. He didn't help on a drive down the middle of the lane. On the out of bounds play, Sean had told him that were going to slip the screen and he went out and (allowed) a basket, and then he came down right in front of our bench and turned the ball over. Hopefully we can get him straightened out before we get to Chicago."

Freshman JamesOn Curry was a non-factor in the first half, scoring just two points on a pair of free throws, but he was a major reason the Cowboys outscored the Salukis 46-31 in the second half.

Curry scored 16 points in the second half, including a couple of big three-pointers in the first two minutes that allowed OSU to go from seven points down to a 51-46 lead with 16:28 remaining in the game.

"He didn't even get a shot off in the first half. For a freshman, he has a lot of grit and a big heart," Sutton said. "He stepped up there in front of our bench and hit that first trey. Then he hit that trey late in the game (after the Salukis had pulled within four). He's certainly one of the best freshmen I've ever coached."

Southern Illinois head coach Chris Lowery was impressed with Curry, who was 3-of-4 on three-pointers and made 9-of-10 free throws to finish with 18 points, five rebounds and three assists.

"For a freshman to go 0-for-0 for the first half and not even take a shot, and to come out and do what he did in the second half, he's very special," Lowery said. "Along with McFarlin, he was a huge difference in the outcome of the game."

Southern Illinois missed its first six shots of the second half and OSU went on a 12-0 run to turn a 46-39 deficit into a five-point lead. That was the difference in the game, Lowery said.

"I really tried to calm us down," said Lowery. "But that was like our practice. That's how we play against each other in practice. We haven't seen that the whole year. Nobody has pressured us at the guard position like that the whole year, and taken us out of things and gotten after our big guys. That was the difference."

Southern Illinois senior guard Derrick Brooks, the two-time MVP of the Missouri Valley Conference, didn't have his best game of the season but he sure impressed Eddie Sutton. Brooks finished with 17 points (on 5-of-16 shooting), seven rebounds and four assists. Sutton pulled him aside as the two teams were shaking hands after the final buzzer.

"He told me I was a great player, and felt I could be in the NBA," Brooks said. "He wished I had been an Oklahoma State player. That meant a lot coming from a legendary coach like that."

Sutton was quick to praise the effort of senior Terrence Crawford for his performance in Sunday's victory. Crawford had seven rebounds (most for the Cowboys), five points and three assists while playing just 22 minutes.

"One other palyer who never gets enough credit is Terrence Crawford," Sutton said. "Terrence is a blue-collar-type player. When I got him out of high school I thought he might be the best player I ever recruited to Oklahoma State. Sometimes he does the things that don't show up – the hustle plays, keeping the ball alive on the glass at times. And he's probably our best defender on the post."

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