Oklahoma State moves on without suspended Williams
When Darrell Williams went before a judge to face four felony charges, a handful of his teammates joined him at the courthouse as a show of support.
Now, they'll have to move on without him.
The Cowboys (16-7, 4-5 Big 12) have spent the week preparing to be without Williams, a junior college transfer who had developed into a regular in the starting lineup. He's suspended indefinitely after being charged this week, and Oklahoma State will play for the first time without him Saturday at Nebraska (15-8, 3-6).
''Darrell knows we're going to have his back through this whole thing,'' guard Keiton Page said Thursday. ''It's going to hurt us without Darrell on the court. We're going to have to stick together and build around that, and other players are going to have to step up and make big plays for us.''
Page said Williams' suspension hasn't been a distraction to this point, and the Cowboys must continue to stay focused on basketball.
Williams was averaging 7.1 points and 7.3 rebounds in his first season at Oklahoma State and had started the last five games. He had points and 12 rebounds in the Cowboys' 81-75 win against Oklahoma on Saturday, and was named the Big 12's rookie of the week.
Coach Travis Ford said he didn't know whether Williams would be able to play for the Cowboys again this season. Williams' next court hearing on three counts of rape by instrumentation and one count of sexual assault is March 7, just after the end of the regular season and before the Big 12 tournament.
''It's hard to say. I doubt it,'' Ford said. ''Who knows? I don't know when everything is going to happen. This whole thing ... I don't know what's going to happen next, so it's hard to comment on that.''
Matt Pilgrim, who started the 11 games that Williams didn't, figures to get the biggest bump in playing time but Ford says he doesn't want to ''put too much pressure on Matt.'' Roger Franklin could also get additional time at power forward, and seldom-used Jarred Shaw could get into the rotation more.
''It hurts losing Darrell,'' Page said. ''You've seen what he's been doing the last couple games. He's been playing his best basketball.''
The loss of Williams adds some extra adversity as the Cowboys try to turn around their season late for the third straight year. They were able to make the NCAA tournament two years ago despite a 3-6 start in Big 12 play, then overcame a 4-5 start last season.
Oklahoma State was just 2-5 in the conference before back-to-back wins against Missouri and Oklahoma, but still hasn't won on the road in the Big 12.
''It don't matter how you start. It matters how you finish, so I think we're going to finish strong,'' Shaw said. ''We've finished strong in past years. This is nothing new to us or our coaching staff. They know what they're doing, so they're getting us ready to be successful.''