ANAHEIM, Calif. -- It won’t always happen that Oklahoma State guard Keiton Page checks out toward the end of the game to receive hugs and handshakes from coaches, with teammates giving the 5-foot-9 guard loving taps on the head.
On Sunday, Page had the hot hand and scored a career-high 29 points to lead the Cowboys to a 66-49 win against Murray State in the consolation bracket of the 76 Classic. But afterward, offense-oriented Travis Ford spoke of his team needing to rely on defense and rebounding rather than the heroics of one guy.
With last season’s Big 12 player of the year James Anderson leaving early for the NBA draft, the contributions are going to have to come from a number of different areas going forward.
“I’m not going to expect Keiton to go out and get 29,” Ford said. “I’m proud of our defense and rebounding. That’s what we want our identity to be.”
Ford loved that Page caught fire, but was perhaps even more thrilled that a veteran Murray State team shot just 38 percent from the field and that the Cowboys won the battle on the boards.
“For a [Murray State] team that has achieved that much, for our young, inexperienced team to get a win against that team, that is a good win,” Ford said.
Oklahoma State got 11 rebounds out of Darrell Williams, 13 points from sophomore guard Ray Penn off the bench and a big 3-pointer from Nick Sidorakis early in the second half to extend the lead to nine. Leading scorer Marshall Moses neither scored nor attempted a shot in the first half, but finished with seven points and three assists.
For this game, Page was the biggest difference-maker. Unfazed by a Racers backcourt intent on stopping him, he was 10-for-13 from the field and 4-of-5 from beyond the arc.
Page’s performance came in stark contrast to the previous two games of the tournament, when he combined to go 2-for-16 from the field.
“Being confident, and not thinking about it,” Page said of the key to coming back from back-to-back off days. “My teammates did a great job of screening.”
Growing up near Murray, Ky., Ford especially valued the victory. With all the family connections he has to the school, he was well-aware of the Racers and their success.
Murray State coach Billy Kennedy knows his team is still a work in progress, as it comes off a 31-win season and seeks another run at the Ohio Valley Conference title.
“Butler was 1-2,” said Kennedy, noting the eventual national runner-up’s record at last year’s 76 Classic. “We have a long ways to go.”
Ford, meanwhile, was more than happy to go home with two wins and some knowledge of where his team stands. The Cowboys can be expected to struggle at times to replace some of the scoring they lost from last season, but hope to be a factor in a rugged Big 12.
And as Page showed, being unpredictably dangerous can be a good quality to possess.