Yet they didn't seem to mind. Oklahoma State preserved a lead down the stretch and prevailed 73-69 against an opponent that five days earlier knocked off No. 1 Texas. The outcome ended a record 14-game winning streak for the Wildcats in Bramlage Coliseum.
Welcome to the Big 12. The Cowboys even pulled off the upset with one starter missing. Point guard Ray Penn aggravated a slight knee problem two days earlier in practice and OSU elected to rest the freshman.
"We got a lot of contributions from a lot of people who haven't played much," OSU coach Travis Ford said. "We were down one young man, who's our point guard, against a team that applies a lot of pressure. We were concerned. We told our guys, we need to try to win this game possession by possession. Literally, that's kind of what we did."
The Cowboys improved to 15-4 overall and 3-2 in the Big 12, where they again look as if they could factor into the league race, if not at least cause problems for other contenders.
Oklahoma State must hope it doesn't lose starters too often. Its thin bench could be a liability if injuries mount. In addition, Keiton Page was a shaky replacement for Penn, though the sophomore guard eventually solved Kansas State's intense pressure and got the ball to go-to man James Anderson, who netted 30 points.
"I said, ‘You've got to get up 20 or 25 shots,'" Ford said of Anderson's role. The silky junior eventually took just 18 and made half those, while also going 10-for-11 from the foul line.
--Oklahoma State fields one of the smallest lineups in the Big 12 and confronted a Kansas State team that led the Big 12 with an average of 16 offensive rebounds per game. The Cowboys manned up, claiming a 40-34 advantage on the boards. The Wildcats did manage to reach their average on the offensive glass with 17 caroms, but no one had more than three.
--The injury that forced G Ray Penn to miss the Kansas State was potentially harmful given that Oklahoma State ranks dead last in the Big 12 in assists with a 12.1 average. Against Kansas State, however, it hit that average on the nose without its point guard.
ON THE SPOT: If the knee injury that forced G Ray Penn to sit out against Kansas State is serious, Oklahoma State could man the point by committee. G Fred Gulley, a freshman like Penn, came off the bench and started for the Cowboys, though G Keiton Page primarily ran the attack. Page played a season-high 37 minutes, with three assists against four turnovers, and went just 1-for-8 from the field. Obviously, he is not the greatest solution, though OSU coach Travis Ford showed his faith and left Page in, even when the guard was gassed and asked for a blow.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It was a team effort. I just put the finishing touch on it (with late free throws). Everybody came together. And we believed we could win, which is big." -- Oklahoma State G Nick Sidorakis.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: It's never too early to analyze the possible NCAA Tournament qualifiers from the Big 12, especially for Oklahoma State. The Cowboys got a huge boost by winning at Kansas State, a much-needed quality road win to add to the resume. Analysts predict the Big 12 will send half its teams to the NCAA Tournament, so any edge Oklahoma State can gain on a winning record in conference play is essential.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Marshall Moses, G James Anderson, G Obi Muonelo, G Keiton Page, G Ray Penn. Key Subs -- G Fred Gulley, G Nick Sidorakis, F Matt Pilgrim, F Roger Franklin.
Baylor 83, Oklahoma State 70
Oklahoma State 90, Colorado 78
Oklahoma State 73, Kansas State 69
vs. Texas A&M, Wednesday, Jan. 27
at Missouri, Saturday, Jan. 30
vs. Texas, Monday, Feb. 1
at Texas Tech, Saturday, Feb. 6
vs. Oklahoma, Saturday, Feb. 13
IN FOCUS: Oklahoma State possesses the kind of outside firepower that's been lacking of late for Texas A&M, which overcame a slump from 3-point range to claim back-to-back home wins against Oklahoma and Colorado. G Donald Sloan is the Aggies' top threat, averaging 18 points while shooting 42.7 percent since the start of the new year. Missouri is tough at home, winning 31 straight for the third-longest streak in the nation.
--G Ray Penn was listed as day-to-day after aggravating an existing knee ailment and missing the Kansas State while watching from the bench on crutches. An MRI was taken and revealed no stress fracture.
--F Marshall Moses snagged nine rebounds at Kansas State, the 13th time this season he's managed eight rebounds or more.
--G James Anderson netted 30 points at Kansas State. It was the sixth time the junior has reached that mark in his career, making him the active Big 12 leader for 30-point performances.
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