STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) Oklahoma State”s basketball team played a game last night, giving the players and coaches a chance to focus for a while, at least on something other than the loss of 10 friends.
Welcomed by a boisterous crowd, the Cowboys returned to the court to play Missouri in their first game since a Jan. 27 plane crash in Colorado that killed two players and eight other members of the school”s traveling party.
The Cowboys won, 69-66, in a spirited game that had the crowd inside Gallagher-Iba roaring all night. Fredrik Jonzen scored 26 and Maurice Baker had 22 for Oklahoma State.
Many in the crowd, along with the coaches from both schools, wore orange ribbons in memory of the victims. The main lobby of the arena remained filled with flowers and handwritten messages to the victims.
The students, most of them in place 90 minutes before tipoff, gave each of the Oklahoma State players a standing ovation as they filed out, a few at a time, for the pregame shootaround. Jonzen, the first out, applauded back at them with upraised arms.
The players received a standing ovation as they trotted to the dressing room shortly before the game. Then, moments later, the arena fell silent for 30 seconds to honor the victims.
Four minutes before gametime, the arena rocked with noise once again as the team came onto the floor. Coach Eddie Sutton followed moments later, trailed by nearly a dozen television cameras.
“Remembering our fallen 10, we”ll prove once again this is the rowdiest arena in the country,” public address announcer Larry Reece bellowed before introducing the starting lineups. As usual, each Cowboy was greeted with a roar.
The game program was dedicated to the victims, Nate Fleming and Dan Lawson (a Detroit area native) and the cover featured a picture of each.
Oklahoma State has been able to hold only a handful of practices since the crash. The Cowboys” first organized workout came last Tuesday, and the next day they gathered with thousands of others for a public memorial service inside Gallagher-Iba Arena.
Since then, there have been funerals to attend just about every day. The latest was yesterday morning, when sports information employee Will Hancock was remembered at a service attended by Sutton and his staff, as well as coaches from across the university.