Slow beginning leaves OSU at a loss

The Kansas student section tries to disrupt a free throw from Oklahoma State forward Le'Bryan Nash during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

KU vs. Oklahoma State

Box score

The blank stares on their faces as they ran to the locker room said it all.

Sure, Oklahoma State’s men’s basketball team had made the trip to Lawrence for Saturday’s match-up with No. 7 Kansas University, but, when the final horn sounded, the Cowboys were left scratching their heads about their failure to show up during the first half of Saturday’s 81-66 loss.

“It’s unexplainable,” OSU sophomore Markel Brown said of his team’s first-half egg. “We laid down. They attacked us in every area, and we didn’t fight back until the second half.”

By then, it was far too late. And even then, the Jayhawks never let the Cowboys get closer than 12 points during the second 20 minutes.

The Jayhawks (20-5 overall, 10-2 Big 12) have become known for their killer runs that put visiting teams on the ropes and leave little doubt about the outcome of games. That came early against the Cowboys, who trailed by scores of 12-4, 34-17, and 44-22 before heading into halftime on the wrong end of a 51-24 blowout.

“Going into halftime, we were getting beat in every single category,” said senior guard Keiton Page, who led OSU with 19 points on 5-of-16 shooting. “We played a little bit better (in the second half), but if we hadn’t have put ourselves in such a deep hole, we could have kept it a game.”

As strange as it might sound, OSU coach Travis Ford actually seemed pleased by his team’s effort when talking with the media. There’s a reason for that. Earlier this year, the Cowboys found themselves in a similar position after the first half of their game at Baylor on Jan. 14. Down 46-31 at the break, the Cowboys were outscored 60-34 in the second half of that one and suffered a 106-65 beatdown in Waco, Texas.

It looked as if Ford’s squad was headed for a similar outcome Saturday. The Jayhawks hit 63 percent of their shots in the first half, including four of nine from three-point land, and held the Cowboys (12-13, 5-7) to 33 percent shooting for the first half and 32 percent for the game. Heck, at one point, Kansas recorded two points in a rather unusual way when a Thomas Robinson pass bounced off the head of OSU’s LeBryan Nash into the hoop.

“We’re out here trying to play one of the best teams in the country in one of the toughest places, and they’re making shots bouncing it off our head in the first half,” Ford said. “That’s how it was going. Everything was going their way. It was just their day, but our guys decided to change it a little bit.”

Oklahoma State, which played just five guys in the second half and did not commit a turnover, outscored Kansas 42-30 after the break. The Cowboys’ defense limited Kansas to 34 percent shooting and forced several sloppy turnovers with a full-court press that seemed to bother Kansas. Asked about the turnaround, Ford did not take credit for coming up with a magic answer at halftime.

“I just said, ‘Hey, we’re not going to hold anything back in the second half,'” Ford recalled. “‘We’re going to be different than we were in the first half in all aspects, mentality and approach.’ When Kansas plays the way they did in the first half, even if we’re playing good, we’re going to have a tough time. But, again, I think (we) showed some resiliency and some character in the second half.”