By John Helsley
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The term must-win has been following the Cowboys around for what seems like months now.
Now in the final stretch run, with five games to play and OSU’s Big 12 record at 4-7, the Pokes play Texas A&M tonight at Gallagher-Iba Arena amid fleeting NCAA Tournament hopes.
Dare we say it?
“A must-win,” said Cowboys senior captain Nick Sidorakis. “We can’t lose this game. It’s a must-win game, hands down. I don’t know any other way to put it.”
And he’s right.
Only this time, it’s for real. Lose and the NCAA dream is gone, barring a magic upset of No. 1 Kansas in Lawrence Monday night.
So, how do the Cowboys beat A&M?
1. Ride The Wave. As bad as the Cowboy have been on the road in the Big 12 – 0-6 bad – they’ve been solid at home, owning wins over Kansas State and Missouri in a 10-1 run, with the only loss to Texas. The crowd should be good, with no excuses to get in the way. The weather is right. The time is right, considering the team’s plight. And it’s not a school night. So it’s time for the Cowboys to use their crowd to fuel a big win and stay alive in the hunt for an NCAA bid.
2. All Together Now. For whatever reason, OSU can’t get more than two or three players producing on any given night. And it’s driving Travis Ford crazy. Against A&M – and from here on – more Cowboys must step up. “I’m past the point of saying everybody’s got to bring their A game,” Ford said. “You’ve got to contribute. If you’re not scoring, bring something else. You better defend or do something else.”
3. Wild Card. Without Darrell Williams, the Cowboys are shorthanded inside. Marshall Moses can’t hold down the paint alone. That means Matt Pilgrim or Roger Franklin or Jarred Shaw needs to help out. And, yes, it’s a broken record. But it’s mandatory.
4.Find Walkup. When the Aggies beat OSU in College Station, Nathan Walkup went off for 16 points, mostly left unguarded from the perimeter. The Cowboys must locate Walkup and get a hand in his face.
5. Win. Somehow, someway – any way – the Cowboys must find a way to win. It’s that simple. Win ugly. Win late. Win in overtime if necessary. But win.