OSU-Texas: Five Keys (Plus Bonus Material)
By John Helsley
follow on Twitter @jjhelsley
Jéan-Paul Olukemi said it, so we’ll say it.
Tonight’s game against Texas is a must-win.
Not a must-win in terms of “season over” if the Cowboys lose.
Must-win to keep from chasing the .500 mark from well behind.
Must-win to keep team confidence from sinking into the abyss.
Must-win to add a marquee win to the resume, with only Missouri and A&M qualifying as the similar opportunities on the remaining home schedule.
That said, here they are:
Five keys vs. Texas:
1. Manage Emotions. It’s a tissue and hanky kind of night planned for Gallagher-Iba Arena, with emotional nods and tributes to the families of the 10 men lost in the 2001 plane crash. There has been a significant, and proper, buildup to this 10th anniversary. For the Cowboys, there’s also a game to be played.
“We of course want to win for us,” said senior captain Marshall Moses, “but if anything, winning the game for them on a night where their ceremony will be bigger than any win we could ever have, because we’ve got life to live after the game. Win, lose or draw, God has blessed us with life. God willing, we’re all going to walk out of this building.
“Those guys didn’t get that chance. So winning for them would actually be bigger than winning for us.”
2. Hold Down The Fort. Winning at home, especially for a team that struggles mightily on the road, seems mandatory for these Cowboys, even with No. 7 Texas in town. The Longhorns are big and tough and talented, maybe the Big 12’s best team. Still, a loss would be difficult to swallow for an OSU team already 2-3 in conference play. Last year, the Cowboys found a way in a similar spot against No. 1 Kansas. Can they do it again?
3. Don’t Foul! The Cowboys have been fouling at an alarming rate. “There’s no question it’s holding us back, a lot,” said OSU coach Travis Ford. There’s a danger of this team getting tagged as frequent foulers by officials, removing any benefit of the doubt on calls. Texas will play aggressive and physical, so the Cowboys can’t back down. But they better play smart.
4. Harness Hamilton. UT’s Jordan Hamilton enjoyed his breakout game inside GIA a year ago, going off for 27 points in a Longhorns win. Now a sophomore, he’s a star, leading the Horns with a 19.5 scoring average to go with 7.2 rebounds a game. Texas has other capable scorers, but Hamilton can take over a game. He must be slowed, with Olukemi the likely best option to defend him.
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