Rapid reaction: Oklahoma State takes down Tennessee 62-45 for big early-season win
By Anthony Slater – Aslater@opubco.com - @anthonyVslater
Using suffocating defense and balanced offense, Oklahoma State beat Tennessee 62-45 on Friday morning, advancing to the Puerto Rico Tip-Off championship. Here’s some rapid reaction:
Tennessee went ice cold early in the first half, missing 10 consecutive shots during an extended scoring drought that lasted more than nine minutes. It gave the Cowboys an early cushion they wouldn’t relinquish.
It was over when…
…Oklahoma State came out confident in the second-half, building off an inspired opening 20 minutes to cruise to an easy final 20 minutes. The Cowboys started the half with an 11-point lead. That was the closest Tennessee would get.
Biggest storyline – Cowboy defense
Terrible offense combined with great defense, equaling an abysmal 26 percent shooting from Tennessee. The Volunteers hit only 13 of their 50 shots, struggling to find open looks and missing them in the rare times they did. But give the Cowboys credit. They played tenacious and energized, pressuring the ball and blitzing the Volunteers. That 26 percent clip is the lowest allowed in the Travis Ford era.
Star of the game – Marcus Smart
The definition of a floor general, Smart controlled the game on both ends from the start. His stat line, as usual, was impressive: 17 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals. But his true impact isn’t fully realized in the box score. The intangibles we heard so much about (leadership, energy, outward confidence, etc.) have been on full display early. If he can get his offensive game on track (in three games, he’s 10-30 shooting), we’re talking about an All-Big 12 force in his freshman season.
Unsung hero – Phil Jurick
An achilles tear is brutal to come back from. Some never do. It’s even harder for a big man putting his 6-foot-11 260-pound frame on the recovering tendon. But nine months after tearing his, Phil Jurick is back playing. And he’s playing well. Inserted into the starting lineup out of necessity, Jurick may have given OSU his best performance since his Stillwater arrival. Six points (on 3-4 shooting) and five rebounds don’t jump off the page, but he had a constant impact during 19 productive minutes. Especially on the defensive end, where he altered shots and helped shut down UT star Jarnell Stokes.
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