By John Helsley
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Called out Matt Pilgrim in an OSU Insider a couple weeks ago.
Here we go again.
The news of sexual assault charges against Cowboys forward Darrell Williams quickly dampened all the good that came from last week’s bounce back efforts that featured wins over Missouri and Oklahoma.
OSU coach Travis Ford announced Monday that Williams “will not travel or play while the legal issues are addressed.” With this case slow to develop, it’s best to write off Williams for the rest of this season, just as he was starting to make an impact on the floor.
Back to Pilgrim, who now finds himself shouldering a heavier load, if not the Cowboys’ already flimsy NCAA Tournament chances. For a guy team insiders have said is often paralyzed on the court with “a fear of failure,” it will be interesting to see how he responds.
Oh, Pilgrim is capable. Late last season, as the Cowboys stormed down the stretch, Pilgrim played a key role, running and dunking and rebounding while showing off his crazy athleticism. But that impact play has mostly disappeared this season, although Pilgrim has better of late. Mostly, he’s played harder, which is half the battle with him.
If Pilgrim can raise his game for a late-season surge one more time, the Cowboys can remain relevant in the race for the Big 12’s final NCAA bids. He’ll need help from sophomores Roger Franklin and Jarred Shaw, thrust now into key backup roles, but it’s mostly up to Pilgrim to provide an added presence to Marshall Moses in the post.
The Pokes are already playing small much of the time. And while the move to speed up their pace of play has helped, they can’t survive and Moses can’t thrive going ultra small.
Last week’s 2-0 performance breathed much-needed life into the Cowboys, getting them to 4-5 in a Big 12 that features nine teams at .500 or lower. A minimum of three NCAA bids are up for grabs, with the Cowboys still within reach.
They just better hope that Monday’s events didn’t choke off those hopes.