Where you been?
Olukemi, mired in a mini-slump since seemingly positioning himself for a Big 12 breakout, resurfaced in a big way for Oklahoma State, scoring 16 of his game-high 20 points in the second half, including OSU's final six points to lift the Cowboys past Texas Tech 70-68.
Before an estimated crowd of 8,000 at Gallagher-Iba Arena, Olukemi shook his struggles and the Cowboys snapped a four-game losing streak, hanging on when Tech's John Roberson just missed on a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“You're looking at two teams just fighting to get a win,” said OSU coach Travis Ford. “It comes down to the last shot, could have gone in, could have missed, either way…”
And for a change – the Cowboys have lost three final possession contests in league play – it went their way.
Olukemi sort of willed it OSU's way, with Keiton Page scuffling through a 1-for-10 shooting day as Option A in the offense.
“When you see a teammate having a tough time, you want to step up and keep your team afloat,” Olukemi said. “I wanted to step up and keep our team in the game.”
And the Cowboys seemed in danger of sinking.
Page couldn't buy a basket. Marshall Moses, who eventually finished with 14 points, wasn't getting enough touches. And in the span of 3:23, a nine-point Cowboys lead flipped to a six-point Red Raiders advantage at 56-51 with 10:53 remaining.
Olukemi and Moses kept the Cowboys close and the defense started getting some stops, yet OSU still trailed 67-64 at the 3:05 mark.
Olukemi took it from there.
His mid-range jumper made it 67-66. And after a D'walyn Roberts free throw pushed the Tech lead to 68-66, Olukemi tossed in a fadeaway 15-footer and drew a foul from Mike Singletary, converting the three-point play for a 69-68 Cowboys lead with :25.4 showing.
The Red Raiders used a time out to set up their possession, but Singletary was whistled for a traveling violation, turning the ball over to OSU with :08 left.
Olukemi made one of two foul shots, allowing for Roberson's final 3, but the ball bounced off the front of the rim, leaving Olukemi in the winning spotlight.
“I thought it was in,” said Tech coach Pat Knight.
Said Moses: “We were definitely glad he missed it.”
Olukemi is just glad to be back, after it had gotten so bad he was left on the bench for the entire final half of Monday's loss at Kansas and left out of the starting lineup Saturday.
After a string of games in which he emerged as OSU's leading scorer in conference play, Olukemi's last four outings were known more for turnovers and foul troubles than positives, punctuated by an average of 5.0 points per game.
What changed Saturday?
“My mindset, approach to the game,” he said. “I think I'm much more focused and determined now. I think I lost some of that motivation or something inside me.
“It's back now. And it feels good.”
It's all good – for now.
“JP, disappointed in him lately, but I thought he responded,” Ford said. “He played harder and obviously made some key baskets for us.
“As I told him after the game, ‘JP, great game, but you've still got more. You're still not out of the doghouse, yet. But good game, we'll take those shots.'”
For the Cowboys, the win felt good, too.
“We needed a win badly,” Moses said. “And I think we played like we did. We fought when we got down. We didn't panic, we stayed calm. We knew we had guys who could make plays.”