STILLWATER — Oklahoma State continues to work on bringing the rowdy back to Gallagher-Iba Arena.
The defense, however, is very much in place.
The No. 23-ranked Cowboys continued their defensive ways Wednesday night, holding South Florida to 34 percent shooting on their way to a 61-49 win.
With former coach Eddie Sutton seated courtside, OSU paid the old coach's style some homage, clamping down on the Bulls to the tune of a 17-of-50 shooting night, aided by six blocked shots. The Cowboys also forced nine turnovers.
“Pretty much every time out,” OSU coach Travis Ford said, “I kept telling the team, ‘Whoever's defense is better tonight is who's going to win. This is a defensive battle.'
“Good shots were hard to come by.”
The Cowboys shot just 40 percent from the floor, yet it was enough, combined with a 41-28 rebounding edge, fueled by center Philip Jurick's career-high 14 boards. OSU has now held five of its last six opponents below 40 percent shooting. Only Virginia Tech has shot better than 42 percent against the Pokes this season.
“That's one of our main goals every time we step on the court,” said Cowboys guard Markel Brown. “We just want to guard down and focus on our defense. No matter if our shots are falling or not, defense is what wins games. That's a big thing for this team.”
Neither team's shots were falling with any regularity.
The Cowboys led 24-19 in a scuffling first half, before breaking away after intermission. They built their biggest lead at the 6:42 mark, 50-35, with Jurick highlighting an 18-9 run with a putback, one-handed jam.
Barely nine months after tearing his Achilles, Jurick has bounced back to be a contributing force inside, mostly as a rebounder and shot blocker, although he added seven points against the Bulls. Jurick actually credits the injury and a resulting 30-pound weight loss for what has been a solid start to the season.Box score: OSU 61, South Florida 49