STILLWATER — As time wound down Sunday, Alex Budke found himself with the ball. Near the basket. Open.
And he passed, drawing groans from the Gallagher-Iba Arena crowd and his teammates.
Ah, but the feel-good moment wasn't lost, as the Cowboys worked the ball back to Budke, this time in the right corner, where he fired a 3-pointer that swished through, setting off easily the loudest approving cheer in a 91-63 rout of Central Arkansas.
That's the kind of Sunday it was — or at least became — for No. 24 Oklahoma State, which improved to 8-1.
Budke, a walk-on transfer and the son of Kurt Budke, the late Cowgirls coach, scored the first points of his Division I career. So did Ford Stuen, the walk-on nephew of OSU coach Travis Ford. Christien Sager, another walk-on who played a valuable role on a depleted roster a year ago, scored his first points of the season and grabbed five rebounds. Mason Cox, yet another walk-on, grabbed a rebound.
For a group that plays a key role in the Cowboys' practices, as injuries have limited available bodies, it was a reward of sorts.
“They deserve it,” Ford said. “You wouldn't believe how hard they practice. And how hard they go about it every day and all we ask them to do. It's not normal for guys in their position to do what we ask them to do … and then not get to play.
“So very proud of them, very happy for them. And I'm glad our guys were excited for them, doesn't surprise me.”
The Cowboys regulars did their part, taking off after a stuttering start that saw the Bears take a surprising early 22-11 lead, prompting two quick Ford timeouts. But OSU closed the half with a 31-8 run, built a lead of 31 at one point, and rolled to an easy win.
What flipped the switch?
“Coach Ford talking to us in the timeout, telling us we had to get it together or we'll get beat,” said Cowboys guard Le'Bryan Nash. “We didn't want that. We don't want to get beat and get nationally exposed for that.”
Nash finished with a game-high 19 points for the Cowboys, who had five reach double figures scoring. Markel Brown added 14, Phil Forte 12 and Marcus Smart and Michael Cobbins 10 each. Smart added seven assists, while Philip Jurick grabbed a game-high nine rebounds.
So there was something for everyone.
And something special for Budke, who returned to Stillwater from St. Gregory's to be closer to his mother and sister Sara and brother Brett just 13 months after his father died in a plane crash on a recruiting trip to Arkansas.
After passing up the easier shot, the Cowboys starters on the bench starting pointing to Budke, instructing for the ball to get back to him. Sager made it happen, feeding Budke in the corner, where he buried OSU's final points with 18 seconds left to play.
“It's real big, not only for the team, but everyone at OSU,” Brown said, “seeing Alex Budke go out there and get a couple minutes, knock down a big 3. I know the fans loved it, so did the team.”
Jordan Harks led Central Arkansas with 16 points and seven rebounds.