DAYTON, Ohio — No matter what his final season record might be, a first-year coach often is thrown into a no-win situation. Travis Ford’s initial season at Oklahoma State ended late Sunday afternoon in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at Dayton Arena.
His eighth-seeded team lost 84-76 to top-seeded Pittsburgh in a contest that was a tossup until the final minute. The Cowboys trailed 79-76 and Pitt had just missed a shot with 40 seconds remaining. Had an OSU player gotten the rebound, the Cowboys could have tied the score with yet another 3-pointer, their 13th of the game. Instead, 6-foot-7, 265-pound behemoth DeJuan Blair grabbed the offensive board and converted a layup to put the Panthers up by five. The Cowboys wouldn’t score again. That sequence, and far too many like it, is why OSU lost. "It boiled down to one single thing,” Ford said afterward. "Our guys were going up 10 feet, but they were going up 11. We were doing everything we possibly could.” The Cowboys were outrebounded 41-21, including 19-5 at the offensive end. Everything else was pretty much a push — 28 field goals for Pitt and 26 for OSU; 11 3-pointers for the Panthers and 12 for the Cowboys; 18 assists for each team. OSU players and coaches insisted Pitt didn’t get their best shot. "I still think we could have won that game, man. I really do,” Cowboys sophomore forward Marshall Moses said. All good players think they could have done better. If OSU and Pitt were to play 10 games, the guess here is the Panthers probably would win at least nine times. They’re just too gosh darn big for the Cowboys. Pittsburgh was perhaps the worst possible matchup for OSU in the entire NCAA bracket. Given the circumstances, the Cowboys went as far as they could. With the season over, it’s time to ask an obligatory question whenever there’s a coaching change. Was OSU better off without former coach Sean Sutton? Was Ford a better idea? Not only is this question unfair to ask, it qualifies as unanswerable. "You can’t do me like that, man,” Harris said, flashing a smile.