Saturday against Kansas State, Page didn’t go so hot.
With Page scuffling with his shot, making but 4-of-17 shots from the floor, the offense ran ragged around him, leaving the Cowboys with a 66-58 loss before an estimated 9,000 at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
Page finished with a game-high 17 points, but much of it came at the foul line, where he went 8-for-9, and a final basket came at the buzzer. He was 1-for-9 on 3-point attempts, getting OSU’s lone make from beyond the arc with 2:00 remaining.
Those were hardly the Cowboys only ugly numbers. OSU made just 1-of-16 its 3-point tries and was out-rebounded 50-29, surrendering 22 offensive boards leading to 18 second-chance points.
Still, the Cowboys trailed just 59-56 when Page connected on his only 3, thanks to K-State’s own second-half shooting struggles and an overall 23-of-40 effort from the foul line.
In the end, however, OSU didn’t have enough, particularly from Page, who continues to be called on to shoulder a hefty load.
“It’s huge,” said Wildcats coach Frank Martin. “You play Oklahoma State, you let him get going… You saw what happened at the end of the game there. All of a sudden, the place goes nuts, the whole team has a tremendous energy.
“You have to take away people’s strength. And that’s their strength.”
And right now, Page is OSU’s only reliable strength.
Asking so much from Page, at 5-foot-8, on a regular basis is probably unfair. But with a young team that features newcomers and freshmen almost exclusively as his wing men, that’s just where the Cowboys stand.
And opponents know it.
Few have slowed him like the Wildcats did Saturday, when Page was left exhausted after a physical afternoon.
“Everybody’s game plan is to stop Keiton Page and bear-hug him,” said Cowboys coach Travis Ford, who clearly didn’t care for how the game was officiated. “That’s what they do, they bear-hug him. He comes off screens and they bump into him.
“I’ve got friends in this league. We talk. ‘Be physical with Keiton Page.’ Everybody talks about it. I know what they’re doing. I guess you can’t call them all. But c’mon, if anyone deserves it, the kid deserves it.”
It was a game that begged for other Cowboys to ride to Page’s rescue. Instead, no other player made more than three baskets.
Le’Bryan Nash, OSU’s second-leading scorer, managed just four points and four shots. Markel Brown had 14 points, but on 3-of-9 shooting.
During one ugly 15-minute stretch – from the 4-minute mark of the first half until 8:59 remained in the game – the Cowboys didn’t make a field goal.
“When (Page) has a tough day, we’ve got to get everybody else stepping up,” said Brian Williams, who had nine points. “If he’s having a good day, we’ll keep feeding him.
“Nights like tonight, they happen. We’ve just got to go back the drawing board and work on our Plan Bs more.”
K-State’s plan went awry, too.
After a hot start, the ’Cats cooled considerably, shooting just 30.8 percent in the second half. Missing free throws, too, they allowed the Cowboys to hang around late, before a final spurt put the game away.
“When you get that close to a ranked team, you’ve got to hold on to it and keep pressing, fighting,” said freshman forward Michael Cobbins. “We were right there.
“We let this one slip.”