COLUMBIA – Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford hesitated several seconds before responding in order to make sure he was processing the question correctly.
After his team ran headfirst into a Missouri squad resolute on washing away the bad taste of the beatdown it stomached Monday against rival Kansas, Ford was asked if he thought the Cowboys were playing the Tigers at the right time.
“You think, you think we were catching them at the right time after they got beat?” said Ford, eyebrows raised, clearly bewildered by the question.
He paused again.
“No,” Ford said adamantly. “Most teams respond after they get ...”
Now Ford started to laugh. “No.” Chuckle. “No.” Chuckle again. “No.”
“We told our team just the opposite to be honest with you,” he said. “One-hundred percent opposite … You don’t, nuh-uh. No. Just 100 percent opposite of that. No. No … You don’t want to catch a team after they’ve just gotten beat up in a rivalry-type game.”
For the record, that's seven emphatic "Nos." In reality, Oklahoma State turned into an unfortunate victim of timing late Monday night after the Tigers were embarrassed by their rivals the Jayhawks, and Missouri carried out its humiliation–inspired slaying in a 95-80 win Saturday afternoon in front of a capacity crowd of 15,061 at Mizzou Arena.
“We haven’t lost like that (Monday against Kansas) since maybe Kansas last year,” forward Justin Safford said. “We kind of took that personally and guys really got back in practice, and we were just going at it.”
Although the outcome was all but official during the game’s final 10 minutes, several times Missouri (16-5, 4-2 Big 12) baited Oklahoma State into thinking it could halt Missouri’s 32-game homecourt winning streak at Mizzou Arena, which was last claimed by these same Cowboys in February 2008. The Tigers forced 24 turnovers and built numerous sizable leads but let Oklahoma State climb back each time until pulling away midway through the second half.
Guard Kim English, who had fallen into a shooting funk since the start of Big 12 Conference play, got himself and Missouri back on track by scoring 14 of the team’s first 30 points. After sinking his third 3-pointer of the half, English pumped his fist and gracefully glided backward down the floor, displaying a swagger neither he nor the Tigers have shown in a while.
After the game, English also tried to explain how the Tigers awoke from their collective shooting drought.
“At KU or at Oklahoma, we just weren’t taking good shots and getting good looks,” he said. “Today we had 21 assists. We had a lot of layups. And when you’re shooting layups, shooting percentage goes to…”
He then consulted the stat sheet lying on the podium
“Whatever 34 for 65 is. Almost like, 49 percent.”
Teammates Zaire Taylor and Marcus Denmon corrected the usually sharp English.
“Higher than 50,” they said.
“Higher than 50,” English repeated.
Denmon then spotted the exact calculation of the percentage on the stat sheet.
“52,” said Denmon proudly while laughing, prompting English to hit him in the stomach.
All mathematics aside, the Tigers simply shot well, connecting on 17 of 31 3-point attempts. Missouri's players broke out of their slumps simultaneously.
“Yeah, it was a good feeling,” Taylor said. “It was bound to happen. It was just a matter of time. It’s weird that everyone goes into a slump like that at the same time. Once you see one guy hit a shot, see the ball go through the hole, it makes it feel just that much easier.”
The Tigers finally played in rhythm and took shots that made sense.
“Guys just caught it and let it fly,” coach Mike Anderson said. “I thought the ball was moving a whole lot better. We didn’t hold onto it trying to figure out what we were going to do. So I thought there was a natural flow.”
One that left the Cowboys swimming upstream against the invigorated Tigers.
“We’re a team that bounces back really strong,” forward Laurence Bowers said. “Like I said we had a bad taste in our mouth, and we wanted to get it out of there and that’s what we did. We took it out on Oklahoma State.”