By Jason Elmquist
After being held scoreless for the first 19 minutes and 59 seconds, Keiton Page knocked down his first bucket — which may have meant more than the rest of his game-high 23 points in Oklahoma State’s 79-68 victory over Stanford on Tuesday at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
With the Cowboys trailing by six points with under two minutes left in the first half, OSU went on a 9-2 run in the final 1:34 — with all nine points coming from 3-pointers — to claim a 34-33 lead at the break.
It was Page, who had gone 0-for-5 from the field to start the game, that put the dagger in the hearts of Stanford before halftime by knocking down a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“(One shot) can definitely change a game, especially at that point in the game,” Page said. “That took us up 34-33 going into the half and gave us the momentum. We got the ball to start the second half and I think that shot gave us a little bit of momentum.”
Even Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins pointed out the significance of OSU’s late run in the first half as been a catalyst for the Cowboys heading into the second half.
“I thought it was big at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second half. That’s when they went on a run,” Dawkins said. “We were up by five and they made some key plays, with Keiton Page stepping up at the buzzer and made a big shot. I think during that stretch, they outscored us 14-2 between the last minute or so of the first half and the start of the second half.”
Again, it was the 3-pointer of Page that would constantly pain the Cardinal through the final 20 minutes. The junior guard from Pawnee then knocked down two more 3-point field goals for OSU’s first buckets of the second half to carry over OSU’s momentum from the end of the first half.
The sudden shooting surge from Page lit fire to the Cowboys, who had shot just 38 percent from the field in the first half. In the final 20 minutes, OSU shot 50 percent from the field — and an outlandish 62.5 percent from behind the arc to finish the night with 11-for-19 from 3-point range for 57.9 percent.
“Our offense tonight helped us out,” OSU coach Travis Ford said. “When we shoot the ball from the three like that, in this building, we’ve got a decent chance to be successful.”
The Pokes pushed their second half lead to as much as 14 points midway through the half. But the Cardinal kept chipping away and kept the Cowboys within an arm’s length.
But then Page did it again.
With the Pokes holding a six-point lead with a minute left in the game, Page threw up a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired. With the same result as his first buzzer-beater of the night — nothing but nylon swinging in the breeze.
“That shot (at halftime) and the shot clock shot were two huge shots,” Ford said. “The one at the end of the first half, not only gave him confidence — because he was struggling — but I think it gave our whole team a boost. ... Keiton’s just finding different ways to score right now, which he needs to continue to do.”
So in essence, Page scored his game-high 23 points in the final 20 minutes and one second of the contest.
While Page did his damage in the final half of the contest, it was fellow guard Ray Penn — solidifying a starting role since the shoulder injury to Fred Gulley, which ended his season — that kept the Cowboys afloat in the first half.
Penn hit the first two 3-pointer’s of OSU’s rally in the closing minutes of the first half to give him 11 points through the first 20 minutes. The sophomore point guard from Houston finished with 14 points for the game with three assists.
“I was really try to control the tempo and just see how the game was going,” Penn said of his role in the second half of the game. “There wasn’t really too many opportunities to just break, but when we did have the opportunities to break, we did. But time management was a part of it, really. I was just trying to control the game, and not let them get any type of confidence.”
The Cowboys improved their record to 11-1 heading into the Christmas Break — which will give the players four days off before returning to practices on Sunday. Next for Oklahoma State will be a road contest at Gonzaga, who recently defeated No. 9-ranked Baylor.
“Wish we were 12-0,” said Ford, referencing OSU’s 56-51 loss to Virginia Tech in the 76 Classic. “We’ll take 11-1, but as we talked to our team a little while ago, we need to understand to be very grateful about being 11-1, be excited about it, but also be very humble about it because we have a lot of room for improvement. I don’t think we’ve played a really good, complete game, yet. And we’ve played some really good teams, so we’re excited to be 11-1 and I think this team should be very proud to be 11-1, but also be humble and understand there’s a whole lot more to work on.”