Dean's Take: Travis Ford May Have Very Short Bench Against Sooners

Tuesday, February 23rd 2016, 6:33 pm
By: Dean Blevins

Bedlam tips in Norman tomorrow night as No. 3 Oklahoma looks to make it a dozen straight home wins over OSU, seven in a row overall, and three straight season sweeps of its arch-rival. The Cowboys come in beat up and fighting to avoid finishing in the Big 12 cellar.

Here are a few comments with my reaction from Coach Travis Ford and Jeffrey Carroll.

Travis Ford:

On how tough it is to “just get through games physically” without injured studs Phil Forte and Jawun Evans: It’s a challenge. Like something I’ve never been through. Or seen. I’m sure there has been, but obviously we have two of the best players in the Big 12 out. And even before last Saturday’s game, I wasn’t sure out of three starters who was going to be able to go. Or suit up. They gave it a go, but y’all saw it. Tyree gave it a go. But halfway through it he was playing on one leg. Mitchell Solomon doesn’t even get a shot off in 19 minutes, playing on one arm. And then Leyton Hammonds is in a boot every second he’s not on the court. I appreciate the guys’ attitude and fight but we just ran out of gas (and lost to Texas Tech at home). I’ve got three or four other guys who are not going to be one-hundred percent the rest of the season. Some teams don’t play subs and play six or seven games. We are trying to hang on. Trying to figure out how to stay in games and stay healthy.

On the schedule: Every team we play now is ranked. We embrace the challenge of it. Hopefully do what we can, maybe do some things … there might be some things we do to get ready for the conference tournament (sly grin) and see who can go and see who needs to rest. And try to keep guys as healthy as possible.

Don’t know exactly what Travis is suggesting he might do but it sounds like he might not play additional players besides his two injured guards. That would certainly be dramatic and emphasize the fact that his troops are beat up. My guess is he won’t suit up very many warm bodies Wednesday.

Ford speculated that Griffin, Hammonds and Solomon are “55 to 60 percent, at best” and that if they can “get them to 70 to 75 percent” healthy that he’d feel lucky. Not too promising. Coaches love to exaggerate injuries when they are losing – or any excuse that they believe they can sell. And I’m not pointing to Ford as exaggerating the facts. All I know is if OSU is without its best two players and three key contributors are no better than 75 percent healthy they should get beat by 30 in these games against ranked teams. And they are not.

But playing an OU team that’s looking to get back in its groove and that will have a full-house ready to roar its approval, the Cowboys will have to play their best to make it a game.

On playing OU: We need to play a near-perfect game. Good on both ends. Try to manage it the best we can.

Ford didn’t hesitate when asked if this has been the hardest year he’s had as a head coach: “Yes, there’s no doubt about it.”

Ford says his biggest frustration is that the injuries are beyond his control. He plays the hand that’s been dealt. The biggest question remaining now is whether the injuries will allow Ford to get another year to prove he deserves to be the head coach at Oklahoma State.

Jeffrey Carroll has played well for Ford. Here’s some Q and A with him:

Jeffrey Carroll:

On OU’s two-point win in Bedlam in Stillwater: The last game I thought we probably should’ve beat them. That last shot just kind of rolled off. Last year their fans were crazy. Should be fun. Playing a top five team in the country will be good.

On how tough it is struggling and knowing your best players (Phil Forte and Jawun Evans) are out: It’s difficult but we have to rally around each other and stay together. We are going to play it out until it’s over. That’s all we can do. We will never quit. That’s not us. We are all close. We just hang out off-campus and grow together as a team.

On anything can happen in Bedlam: We are still going out there every night to play as hard as we can. It’s definitely doable.

On OU: They are a fast-moving team. They make 10-12 threes a game. They’re great shooters and will be fun to play. We can’t lay down cause it’s OU and they’re top five in the country. We’re gonna play our hardest.

On his game-winning 3 that rimmed out at the buzzer in Stillwater’s Bedlam: That night I couldn’t sleep. Just knowing if I fixed one little minor thing it could’ve gone in. Could’ve changed our season, probably.

Bedlam is not as fun as it used to be: for the players, fans, and the media. There’s no doubt that OU’s excellent season doesn’t do Ford any favors when his fans see what Lon Kruger is doing in Norman. But no one said it was gonna be easy. And they wouldn’t pay the money these guys make if it was.