1. Did Southern Illinois play more physical than the Cowboys in the first half?
Every player I spoke with, which included all five starters and Terrence Crawford, said yes.
"We didn't get after them the first half defensively, and they got after us," head coach designate Sean Sutton said. "Our guards didn't respond very well to their pressure, and we didn't do a very good job of guarding them in the halfcourt. Of the 46 points they had at halftime, 38 came from their backcourt."
2. Are the Cowboys just a come-from-behind team, like a race horse that sits off the pace and makes a move in the turn for home?
Apparently they are, and have been most of the season. In the last 10 games of the season the Cowboys have averaged 34.7 points and shot 42.4 percent in the first half of their games. In the second half they have averaged 43.8 points and shot 53.3 percent. Their best first half total was 39 points three times. They were under 39 points just three times in those 10 games in the second half and hit for 50 the second half against Texas Tech in Stillwater.
In the NCAA second round win over Southern Illinois, OSU trailed 46-39 at the half shooting 54.2 percent. In the second half they scored 46 points and shot 54.5 percent.
"Sea Biscuit, man," said senior guard Daniel Bobik. "It's not how you start, it's how you finish. I think a lot of teams we wear them down. We get their best shot because we have been ranked in the top 10 and we are a two seed. They come out fired up and we have to fight off their initial thrust. We were down at halftime, which we don't like, but we were able to fight back and that is the sign of a good team."
3. Why didn't freshman JamesOn Curry take a single shot from the field in the first half?
It's a good thing he shot the ball in the second half. His first shot from the field - a three-pointer - energized the Cowboys to start the second half. He ended up 3-of-5 from the field for 18 points. All three of his baskets were three-pointers and he was 9-of-10 from the free throw line for a total of 18 points. Teammates said that Curry got some strong advice from the coaching staff to shoot the ball in the second half. He doesn't tell it quite that way.
"I was getting in the middle and driving and every time I did I would see somebody to pass to," Curry said. "I'm still a guy that looks to pass first and shoot second. Even as a 40-plus scorer in high school I would look to pass first. I was seeing Joey, Ivan or John and just passed the ball. Coach Sutton was upset. He told me I had no shots from the field, and I told him I was driving and I wasn't getting open looks. He said, ‘you're right, you're the only person driving the ball so keep being aggressive.'"
Being aggressive with his three-pointers is good too.
4. Why were the first five minutes of the second half so crucial?
First, OSU had a deficit to make up. Second, the longer they allowed Southern Illinois to front run the harder it was going to be. SIU is a team that thrives on defense and athleticism on offense. They are not a great shooting team. That means they struggle with playing from behind. Just get them down and they were going to have a hard time coming back. After OSU took the lead on Curry's three-pointer at the 18:06 mark and led 47-46 the game was tied twice and the Salukis had a brief one-point lead at 52-52 with 14:21 to play. OSU led the rest of the game.
"They do struggle some with their shooting and we knew if we could get in front and stay there, we had a good chance to win it," said Sean Sutton.
Four Questions after OSU-Southern Illinois
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