As soon as James Anderson's three went through as the time ticked to :00, I immediately began counting down the hours to Monday night, 8 PM CST (45 hours from publishing time, by the way).
It's what all of us wanted to do all week; to begin looking forward to the biggest Big Monday so far. Quite honestly, the biggest game, period, thus far. The biggest Border War game in years.
But while we've been waiting all week for this, to look forward to what is sure to be a matchup of epic proportions, Missouri fans have had this one circled for, oh, I don't know, 8ish months? Ever since our team was gutted, and they saw nearly everyone was returning for the TIgers, this game was circled. This was their time, their time to beat a Kansas not expected to be good. After all, this was a rebuilding season.
So, both fanbases are pumped. They're amped. Neither can wait. It is an absolutely gigantic game. Be prepared.
But, this isn't a Missouri preview. The first four paragraphs come out that way, but that's not the intention. I was just capturing the emotion coming into a Saturday afternoon contest in Allen. Kinda like last week, when we just had to get through Colorado on our way to a more important game with Baylor. It's like we are speed dating, and there is this smokin' hot chick next in line. But, sitting in front of you, there is this small, petite, average-looker. Nothing terribly appalling, but you have your eye on that next one. So, you sit there, politely nodding your head and saying the right things, while peeking at that next girl the entire time. That's what today was like.
At least for the fans. For the players, it was clear they were focused, they remained focused, and we outhustled the Pokes. If you didn't know it, it would have been hard to guess we had a huge, gigantic rivalry game coming up in two days. No, we acted like this was the game we were focused on, this was the game we cared most about.
We were content with the average-looker, devoting all of our attention to her. Sure, in the sideways glances as we sat down, we took note of that hot chick just a seat away. But once we took a seat at the table, we listened to every word, laughed at every joke, politely commented about her hair.
But now, the buzzer sounds. James Anderson's shot goes through, the average-looker gets up and walks away from the table. You get up, making no bones about checking out the hot girl.
Now this is the fun part.
Player-by-players after the jump...
Yes, I realize I just spent 450 words talking exclusively about the stuff after the game. Not a single word on the actual events in the 40 minutes. We'll get into most of it in the player-by-players, and there is always Denver's Statistical Rearview. But, other than that, there isn't that much to say. Oklahoma State's entire offense is predicated on getting and making open threes; they didn't hit 'em, today, making only 31%. We used our size to outrebound them by 12, and combining that with their ineffectiveness from three and you pretty much have the game. Nothing really exciting about that analysis, I know, but that's how it was.
OK, now that we got that out of the way, here we go to the p-b-ps.
- When you're talking Player of the Game, there is only one real direction you can go: Sherron Collins. Heh. Caught ya. I bet you thought I was going to say Cole. And, really, he does have a case. But, going in, I said the key to the game, above all else, was keeping Byron Eaton out of the lane. When he can't get into the lane, they resort to shooting random threes. And, guess what? Sherron kept Eaton's ass the hell out of the lane, and Okie State shot 32 threes. But more importantly, a lot of those threes were rushed, or were contested, and weren't in the flow of their offense. And that was a big reason why theyey only made 31% of them. Sherron kind of got his shot back, making three treys, but still kind of struggled offensively. Nevertheless, his second-straight absolutely fabulous defensive performance was enough for me.
- Cole Aldrich does deserve his props, though. Now that, Cole, that is how you play against opponents seemingly half your size. Instead of playing shitty, like he did against Nebraska, Cole played to his height, used it as an advantage, and picked up a career-high 18 boards. His shot really isn't falling, either, so hopefully that changes quick. But, as long as he is that active on the boards (particularly the offensive glass), we should be A-OK. As good as Missouri's frontcourt is, they don't have the height to match up with Big Cole. He should have every opportunity to dominate in the interior, unless they focus on him. In that case, we've gotta hit the open threes. Simple as that.
- OK, so, sometime after the game, I was watching ESPN. And, they were scrolling through all of the games, and ours came up. They showed the score, then shuttled that over to the left so they could score a player from each team. After seeing Obi Muonelo's 19 plastered up there, I figured they were showing leading scorers and prepared myself to see Cole's ridiculous line. Then, to my shock, it read "Little: 13 points". What? Mario Little was our leading scorer? I didn't really believe it, so I went and checked the box score. Sure enough, Little's 13 points lead the team today. This, officially, makes him one of the more efficient shooters in college basketball. I understand that such a statement is ridiculously unfounded, and likely not true. But still, I want to say it. Seriously, though, he has more post moves than Cole, even. Whether you're bigger or smaller than him, he's damn-near-impossible to contain down low on the blocks. He is a really good rebounder too, for his size. He knows how to box out, and that alone gives him a handful of boards a game. He is a very good player, and is going to have to come up big Monday night.
- A really good game, too, from Tyshawn Taylor. He has struggled, big-time, these past couple of games, but he emerged as another legitimate offensive threat. He was one of three people to score 12 points (with Cole and Sherron being the other two, combined with Mario's 13), and his shot was falling. He hit all of his freebies, too, and had a positive assist:TO ratio (4:2). It wasn't a career day, or anything, but was plenty good enough to win. If we could get that from him every night, we are a much better team. Much better.
- For the first time, I think ever, we're splitting up the Morris twins. Well, I mean, they're both in the same bullet point (duh), but they had two entirely different games. On one hand, Marcus Morris was active, he was good defensively, he was a contributor on offense. He stayed out of foul trouble (only 1 foul in 14 minutes), limited his mistakes (1 turnover) and was money from the free throw line (5-6). His post moves are improving every week, and he flashed a couple tonight. Markieff Morris, on the other hand, was terrible. Godawful, even. In 6 minutes, his line read: 0-3, 0 points, 3 rebounds, 3 turnovers, 2 fouls. Ugh. At least he was still rebounding well, but everything else was just, big-time shitty. As long as one of the Morris twins plays well, we should be fine, but it was awesome to see them both emerge Monday night. Neither of them played particularly good D on Obi Muonelo (neither did Mario Little, of course), but that was to be expected. It was a mismatch, and as I said in the preview, I was OK if he exploded, so long as we didn't let anyone else blowup. Surprise, surprise, Obi went off for 19, but it didn't much matter because we limited everyone else to low numbers (except Marshall Moses, but he can shoot as much as he wants, given their other weapons).
- Oh-so-typical days from both Relly Ice (Tyrel Reed) and Brady Morningstar. Neither was spectacular, or above average, really, for what is expected of them. That's why their days were typical. Relly Ice wasn't great offensively, but hit a pair of huge shots (shocking, I know) including the most awkward steal-and-layup-and-andone in the history of basketball. His D is always improving, and I didn't really notice him today on defense, which is a good thing as far as he's concerned. Brady, on the other hand, held James Anderson (he of the 16.8 scoring average) to only 10 points on 3-13 shooting (including 2-9 from three). Holy hell. Brady was cold, for the most part, from three; shooting only 3-7, with at least two of those misses occuring while Brady was wide, wide open. But, Brady did have 6 assists, so boom.
Travis Releford and Tyrone Appleton didn't quite play enough to satisfy their own bullet, but both deserve half-shoutouts. Appleton didn't play particularly well, but whatever. Releford did, however, although he screwed himself, big-time, with the stupid three he fired up there. The alley-oop was awesome, though; hopefully he plays more just for that.
As much fun as this game was, we're on to bigger and more important things. The hot date, remember?
Missouri's coming up Monday night, and we're going to have you well prepared. Sunday and Monday should be full Mizzou days, with me trying to work in the Big 12 Roundup somewhere in there.
We're ready, hot girl. No more going through the motions (politely, of course) for us. We're on to the big-time.