Oh, the irony.
Wednesday night in what may have been a must-win game for the Cowboys, point guards Keiton Page and Cezar Guerrero paved the way to a 68-58 double-overtime win over SMU.
Page scored a season-high 27 points, including two vital 3-pointers late in the first overtime to wipe out a six-point deficit. Guerrero added 14 points, with nine coming at the start of the second overtime as the Cowboys outscored the Mustangs 10-0 in the final five-minute period.
“These are two tough kids,” OSU coach Travis Ford said. “Two very coachable (kids).
“I know I've got the guys in there I can go to battle with.”
Before Wednesday, Ford had been battling adversity. Point guards Fred Gulley and Reger Dowell left the program within a week of each other, Gulley over playing time and Dowell because Page had been shifted back to the point.
With the Cowboys getting little consistent production from the position, and the team mired in a three-game losing streak, Ford said he felt it was the natural move to shift Page to the point.
Against SMU, it wasn't always pretty, but it was overall effective.
“Coach Ford's prepared me well,” Page said. “Even though we didn't think I was going to play the point, he's been throwing me in the mix a little bit in practices to get me used to it just in case.
“I'm fine with playing the point. I'll play the 5 if he wants me to play the 5.”
The freshman Guerrero, who burst on the scene with a 29-point effort to spin a Cowboys win over Texas-San Antonio back in mid-November, had been mostly silent since. But the defections mean an expanded role for him, too.
Guerrero, who scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half, showed glimpses of that one brilliant night against UTSA.
“My shot hasn't really been on,” Guerrero said. “But confidence is the big factor. You've got to believe in yourself, just come through the adversity.
“And I believe in myself a lot. I know my capabilities and my abilities and what I can do. I just need to use them more often, instead of pouting or letting adversity set on me.”
The Cowboys needed their point guards more than ever, with Jéan-Paul Olukemi and Le'Bryan Nash scuffling, combining for nine points — three in the second half — on 4-of-15 shooting.
After the game was tied 49-49 at the end of regulation, Page rescued the Cowboys in the first overtime. With his team down 58-52 with 1:17 left in the period, Page fired in consecutive 3s, before Michael Cobbins blocked Jeremiah Samarrippas' running shot in the final seconds.
SMU never scored again.
Guerrero just got started scoring.
The California freshman got OSU started in the second overtime with a 16-foot jumper, fired in a 3-pointer, then struck for a driving layup that made it 65-48 at the 1:54 mark. He added two free throws with 1:33 remaining, before Page finished the scoring with a free throw in the final 30 seconds.
“CJ is one of those guys, you never know when he is going to get hot,” Page said. “It can happen any moment. We have seen it from day one. When he does get hot, it's kind of scary.
“It came at a perfect time tonight.”
A perfect time for the Cowboys, who moved to 7-5 when they could have fallen to .500.
“We've got real guts,” Guerrero said. “We just played through adversity. We have been through adversity, with the stuff that has been happening to our program. We just stuck it out.”