STILLWATER— OklahomaState seemingly passed in and out of basketball consciousness Saturday against MissouriState.
When engaged, OSU handled the Bears with ease.
Even when not, the Cowboys were never seriously threatened – cruising to a 62-42 win – except perhaps by their coach, who had to witness a lack of focus and stretches of unsightly play.
“When you go out there and hold a team to 13 points and the percentage we held them to,” Travis Ford said of a 34-13 halftime bulge, “I think our guys came out in the second half just thinking they were automatically going to miss.
“They heard it from me in a few timeouts, telling them we’ve got to respond better than we’re responding.”
The No. 23-ranked Cowboys led 14-2 barely five minutes into the game and were in complete control by halftime before an estimated 6,600 at Gallagher-Iba Arena. But early in the second half, the Bears made a run, getting as close as 11 and keeping it there for a while, before OSU re-engaged and pulled away again, improving to 7-1.
“We had a good first half against them,” said OSU guard Markel Brown, “but came out sluggish, slow against them in the second half. We can’t do that on a consistent basis. That’ll hurt us in the long run.”
Against MissouriState, which fell to 2-7, the consequences were minor.
A team in transition with a new coach and a roster that ranks No. 7 among least-experienced teams, based on an average of just 0.83 seasons per player, the Bears struggled offensively against OSU’s halting defense.
MissouriState made six field goals in the first half, shooting 21.4 percent from the floor through the opening 20 minutes. The Cowboys weren’t allowing second-chance points, either, out-rebounding the Bears 28-13.
“I couldn't ask for better defense in the first half,” Ford said. “It was great, the rebounding was great.”
“We came out in the second half thinking the same thing,” said Cowboys forward Michael Cobbins. “Credit to them, because they actually came out and made shots, even beat us (29-28) in the second half.
“But we’ve got to change that. Can’t let that happen again.”
Contributing to the ugliness that ensued was a scuffling offensive stretch for the Cowboys. They didn’t score until the 16:08 mark of the period, as the Bears opened on a 10-0 run. The lead was still 11, 42-31, when OSU turned it on with a 12-0 surge, aided by a switch to a zone defense and boosting the margin back to blowout status
The Cowboys were mostly ragged offensively, shooting 42.9 percent for the game, a mark dragged by a 4-for-23 effort from beyond the arc. Still, it was far superior to MissouriState’s final 33.3 percent. And an overall 46-22 bulge on the boards allowed OSU to control the game.
Brown led all scorers with 15 points, while Cobbins had 10 points and eight rebounds in his most extensive work of the season after missing the first five games with a fractured toe. Le’Bryan Nash added 10 points, while Kamari Murphy grabbed a game-high nine rebounds and Marcus Smart added seven points and seven boards.
“Overall, I was pleased with how we played and got out of that game with a win. Really was,” Ford said. “Obviously, there was a few segments there I could sit around and complain about and be mad about and all of that…
“I understand the mentality a little bit. I kind of chalk it up to that. We’ve got to be a little more mature than that and handle a lead a little better than that. Still, end up winning by 20.”