STILLWATER — Oklahoma State’s basketball season has been revived. Not even the loss Saturday at Iowa State squelches momentum much. The Cowboys again are playing strong. Play like this, and OSU won’t be an easy out in the Big 12 Tournament or the NCAAs.
But to make a deep run in Kansas City or the NCAA brackets, the Cowboys need some help. Mainly from Travis Ford.
Ford has to coach better. He’s got to prepare his squad for all the little details that can determine winning or losing in a tight game.
Ford has not coached well this season. In January, Ford seemed to lose grasp of his superstar and thus his team. That has changed, which is why the Cowboys are formidable again. So kudos to Ford for righting that ship.
But the maddening mistakes that are magnified in close games continue.
We saw that in Ames, Iowa, on Saturday.
I went to a basketball practice the other day. A team below the Big 12 men’s level. The last five minutes of practice were spent working on intentionally fouling when up three points late in the game.
I don’t know if the Cowboys work on such tactics or not. But it didn’t show in the final seconds of regulation at Iowa State, and it cost OSU another win.
When Phil Forte missed a foul shot with five seconds left in the game, Iowa State still had life, trailing by three points. Ford wanted his team to foul, which is the accepted strategy, but Markel Brown, the man who could have done that just that, said he never got the message, and the Cyclones’ Naz Long hit a desperation 30-footer at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.
The roles were reversed in overtime. Twice in the final 10 seconds, OSU got the ball down three points. Both times, Iowa State quickly fouled before the Cowboys could get anything close to a 3-point shot.
Some coaches choose to not foul. Which is fine. You can get burned both ways. But players not getting the message? That’s unacceptable.
Brown was in perfect position to foul Long, who was dribbling. That’s when you foul in that situation. On the dribble. That way there’s no chance of a freak shot and some ref awarding three foul shots.
But Brown said he didn’t know he was supposed to foul. That’s a major communication problem. The Cowboys were out of timeouts, and with the usually automatic Forte on the line, victory seemed assured.