By Anthony Slater – Aslater@opubco.com - @anthonyVslater
Oklahoma State stumbled at Virginia Tech 81-71 on Saturday afternoon, losing for the first time this season. The 15th-ranked Cowboys are now 5-1, while the Hokies improved to 7-0. Here’s some rapid reaction:
Backed by a rowdy home crowd, Virginia Tech flipped momentum early in the second half, turning a four-point deficit into an eight-point lead. The 23-11 run was filled with OSU turnovers, fouls and missed jumpers, all of which played a key role in the Cowboys’ eventual demise. They got back in it late, cutting the Hokies lead to three on a couple occasions, but when looking back, this rough patch decided the game.
It was over when…
…OSU continued to clank errant three-point misses in the game’s final minutes. Virginia Tech left the door open, but the Cowboys’ poor outside shooting never allowed them to kick it in. For the game, OSU went 4-23 from deep (17.4 percent) and that was highlighted in the final 1:06, when four different Cowboys (Le’Bryan Nash, Markel Brown, Marcus Smart and Phil Forte) all missed potentially huge triples. Live by the three, die by the three.
Star of the game – VT’s Erick Green
The Hokies’ senior guard was the best player on the court Saturday, Marcus Smart included. Green committed two early fouls, giving him a quick seat on the bench. But upon return, he took over the game’s final 30 minutes, sparking a stagnant offense and igniting an energetic crowd. And Green did it in a variety of ways, drilling four threes, attacking the bucket for a pair of crafty layups and getting to the line with regularity (12-13 on the game). Green entered with a 24.3 per game average. He had 28 points on Saturday.
Phil Forte went 2-11 from the field and an ugly 1-10 from three-point range. The Cowboys can’t win if Forte can’t buy a bucket. Especially when he’s jacking it up double-digit times from deep. A variety of them were open, he just couldn’t find his stroke. But that’s to be expected of a freshman in his first rowdy road environment.
Another solid all-around game for the freshman who plays with veteran poise. The leadership was evident and the box score was stacked again. Smart finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds (his first career double-double) to go along with six assists, two steals and an encouraging blank in the turnover column. But his shooting touch must improve. Smart went 5-15 on Saturday and is now shooting 36.7 percent this year.
Stat of the game
Virginia Tech outrebounded OSU 37-29. And it felt worse, with many Hokie boards coming in key moments.
What it means?
This really isn’t all that bad a loss for OSU. Virginia Tech is undefeated (7-0) and playing extremely well under new coach James Johnson. They weren’t before, but it’s almost a guarantee the Hokies will be ranked on Monday.
Phil Jurick started despite taking an elbow to the lip in practice on Wednesday that required 12 stitches and Michael Cobbins got his first action of the season, returning from a fractured toe. Finally some good news for the Cowboys on the injury front.
Unranked Baylor beat 8th-ranked Kentucky in Lexington on Saturday. Huge win for the Bears and the Big 12.
OSU returns home for a cozy six-game homestand to close out conference play. It begins on Wednesday with South Florida, an average Big East team with a 5-2 record this season.
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