“He kicked us out of practice,” said Cowboys senior Marshall Moses. “We had to go back in there and jump around and show him we were ready to practice and that it was a fluke.
“We probably practiced for about 20 minutes after that. And we looked good.”
The Cowboys kept looking good Tuesday night, bolting to an early lead and blowing past Harvard 71-54 in the first round of the NIT.
Before a crowd of 5,342 at Gallagher-Iba Arena, OSU never trailed, led by as many as 19 and ended a three-game losing streak in NIT openers.
The Cowboys, improving to 20-13, advances to face tonight's Long Beach State-Washington State winner. That second-round game will be on the home floor of the higher-seeded team. The Cowboys are the No. 3 seed in the region, while Long Beach is the No. 7 in the bracket and Washington State is the No. 2.
OSU led 15-6 barely six minutes in and maintained a double-digit edge for much of the game, attacking in the post and using a decided quickness advantage to attack the rim.
Marshall Moses scored a game-high 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds, while Matt Pilgrim added 12 points inside. Reger Dowell, continuing his strong audition at the point for next season, made 6-of-7 shots and finished with 15 points.
The Cowboys, last in the Big 12 with a 43.4 shooting percentage coming in, made 27-of-50 shots from the floor (54 percent), while holding Harvard to a 40-percent effort. And they limited Ivy League Most Valuable Player Keith Wright to 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting.
“We were hopeful that we could get off to a good start and certainly try to manage the situation with the home court advantage they would have here,” said Crimson coach Tommy Amaker.
“Give their coaches and their staff a lot of credit, they had those kids ready and they played hard and played an outstanding game.”
Credit for a swift kick in the backside, perhaps.
OSU's performance was anything but what Ford had imagined when he ran his team out of Gallagher-Iba Monday. The Cowboys' attitude toward an NIT appearance – on Spring Break with the NCAA Tournament opening the same night in Dayton – had been a cause for concern.
And the concern intensified Monday.
“He just kind of said, ‘You guys don't deserve to play. Get out of my gym.' Something like that,” Moses said. “So we're all out of the gym and we're trying to decide, ‘OK, do we go to the locker room? Do we go back and talk to him? If we go back, is he going to yell on us? Do we send the captains to talk to him?'
“We were just trying to decide what to do. We finally just decided to go back out there as a team and show him we were ready to practice. And if he yells, no matter what, show him we're ready to practice.”
They kept on showing against Harvard, co-champions of the Ivy League and at No. 35 the highest-rated RPI team left out of the NCAA bracket.
“A lot of times this time of year,” Ford said, “you have got to do things to motivate guys and kind of bring every trick out of your bag that you can.
“But I wasn't happy. It wasn't anything I planned to do, but I wasn't happy. I just tried to get their attention and make them understand that this Harvard team is legit.”