"The theme of our week, and it's been a long week," said OSU head coach Travis Ford after the game noting that the team practiced very hard this week, so hard he was concerned they may have done too much, "the theme was to make more positive plays than negative plays.
"In the month of February, if you are going to have any success at all, you need to be playing to your strengths as a team to create more positives. When you look at our game with 18 assists to 10 turnovers I thought we did that. It hasn't been that way for awhile.
"We shot 54 percent from the field, 50 percent from the three-point line and 85 percent from the free-throw line. These are all positives and we got positive play out of every person. I liked our attitude today. I was proud of our team," Ford added.
Anderson scored 27 of his game-high 31 points in the first half and he finished the half with a drive down "main street" in the paint that finished with a sidearm scoop for two and an "and one" courtesy of the foul by Oklahoma's Andrew Fitzgerald.
Anderson scored about every way you'd want to see it after getting a good dose of physicality in the games against the Longhorns and Red Raiders. The fear was the book was out on how to play Anderson, but in the Cowboys week off a few adjustments were made.
Those adjustments weren't just for Anderson, Keiton Page had a career-high 25 points, Obi Muonelo had 17 points, and Matt Pilgrim tallied 16. Read on, it was an offensive day for Cowboys basketball.
It was Anderson that launched the Cowboys on what at the high point became a 19-6 run from the middle of the first half until inside the four-minute mark. The 6-6 junior out of Junction City, Ark., hit back to back three-pointers that evened the score at 21-21 after Oklahoma had taken their first lead of the game and eventually their largest lead at 21-14.
During the Cowboys' run Muonelo hit a couple of threes, and he had eight points in the first half. Anderson would also add another pair of treys in the final minutes of the first half. On several of those possessions the opportunity for the Cowboys were extended by hustle with offensive rebounds. Oklahoma State had nine offensive boards in the first half and those resulted in 13 second chance points. The Cowboys led at halftime 48-38.
The most spectacular of Anderson's first half performance came on a "Jordan-esque" baseline drive from the left corner that he finished with an authoritative slam dunk. That basket put the Cowboys up 45-32 tying for the biggest lead of the half. Just prior to that highlight reel play was another as Page threw up the perfect alley oop to Matt Pilgrim for a 41-29 Cowboys advantage.
"I just came back out and attacked right there at the beginning and then started trying to look for my teammates," said Anderson of his first half performance. "Once I started scoring, it opened up everything for them and they get good looks. I just tried to look for them. It's not all about me scoring. I try to get them into the game too."
Anderson had also had that monster first half on "Big Monday" against Texas. Asked to compare, Anderson liked this one better. He should, just because of the finish.
"Probably today," said Anderson starting his answer. "I'd say today. I just felt real comfortable coming off screens and my shot felt real good. I think the Texas game … well it was pretty much the same. It just felt better today."
Speaking of Page, while he cooled down with his shooting during the same period that Anderson and Muonelo heated up, it was Page that got the Cowboys off to a great start. The little dynamo out of Pawnee is going to have to adjust to helping with point guard duty the rest off the season as freshman point guard starter Ray Penn now has his injured leg in a cast.
He finished his early scoring run with a drive where he was banged up hard, but still hit the basket and added the free throw for a 10-5 OSU advantage. Page also finished the first half with eight points.
Tommy Mason-Griffin of Oklahoma matched Page early with a deuce and a three-pointer in the opening minutes and it was UCLA transfer Ryan Wright that scored on a lay in to give OU its first lead in the game at 12-10.
The onslaught continued in the second half as Muonelo opened the scoring for the Cowboys with a three-pointer. Matt Pilgrim energized the fans after the halftime break with a monster slam dunk inside and then Page upped the OSU lead to 12 when he scored on a steal and a lay in on the other end to make it 55-43 on the scoreboard.
"We had some guys other than James (Anderson) step up in the second half and that was crucial because we've had games before where James had big first halves and we've had a small lead and we come out the second half and James either gets tired or they do a better job and nobody steps up. Today we had guys step up for us."
That is when Anderson picked up his game again, finishing a baseline drive with a switch to the left hand for a nifty lay up. After Pilgrim, who finished with 16 points, scored inside and converted on the "and one," Nick Sidorakis hit the first of a couple of threes that ended up being his only points in the game (six).
Page hit Pilgrim on an alley oop that resulted in a monster slam and a little hanging on the rim for a technical foul.
"That was pretty exciting," said Page of the pass to Pilgrim. "If you know Matt, he's the type of guy, every practice, any time we have a chance he's always, ‘Throw me the lob, throw me the lob, throw me the lob.' Tonight he got two pretty good ones down. They were exciting plays."
After the Sooner free throws it was 64-43. Sidorakis' next three made it 70-47 and then Page continued his assist run by hitting Anderson just after crossing midcourt and the 6-6 explosion on the basketball court went airborne for another slam to make it 72-49.
From that point, Page and Anderson started hitting threes again and expanded the lead at one point to 83-56. Oklahoma State ended up outrebounding the Sooners, who were minus leading rebounder Tiny Gallon, 36-29. It was a difference maker primarily in the first half in extending offensive possessions and opportunities.
"We could have rebounded better," said OU head coach Jeff Capel of what the Sooners could have done to have a better chance to win. "We could have guarded Anderson better too. This is a tough league, the Big 12, we need to be tougher to win games like this and nobody is going to feel sorry for us (for missing players)."
For senior Obi Muonelo and Anderson, who will be drawing a paycheck from some NBA team next season, this was a good way to potentially wrap up their Bedlam careers.
"In here, in our home court, all the fans get to enjoy the win with us," said Anderson. "The first game, we had a pretty good chance of getting a good road win and we needed it. Things happen like they happened down there and we come up short. That's why we had to get revenge on this game."
"It was a lot of fun out there," said Muonelo, an Oklahoma native from Edmond that grew up with Bedlam. "Our crowd was as loud as it's been all year. All my teammates told me it was my last one, so just have fun. That's what I went out there and did."
The Cowboys, after obviously making good use of their week off from the Big 12 this past week, now continue a drive toward a postseason berth with a huge road game on Wednesday at Iowa State before returning for another equally important home game with Baylor next Saturday.
Travis Ford and his Cowboys need to find three more wins in the final six left in the regular season to feel reasonably good about needing their dancing shoes in March.
"I know where we're at. I watch it," said Ford of the bracketology this time of year. "Most coaches will tell you they don't, (but) I watch it. We need to win, we need to win some games."