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Oklahoma State basketball: Cowboys facing a grinding finish

by John Helsley Modified: January 29, 2014 at 3:50 pm •  Published: January 29, 2014
Cowboys coach Travis Ford is looking for answers. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman
Cowboys coach Travis Ford is looking for answers. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

Travis Ford lingered long in the visitor’s locker room at Lloyd Noble Center Monday night. He was late to the postgame press podium. Late to postgame radio obligations on the Cowboy Sports Network.

And judging by the faces and moods of Ford and his staff and the players, there was an airing of grievances going on behind closed doors.

Ford clearly wasn’t happy, complaining about everything from the fouling to the lack of motion on offense to a rare rough night defensively, although the misfit lineups used in the wake of foul trouble surely didn’t help.

Or did the poor defense come first?

“We didn’t defend very well. That’s the bottom line,” Ford said. “When you don’t defend well, you put yourself into position to foul. So we probably did (foul).

“They did a good job of taking us off the dribble. Fouling is usually a product of being out of position or not defending as well as you need to. I would guess that’s probably the case.”

Then things compounded.

“Foul trouble dictated a little of why we weren’t defending very well,” Ford said. “We had different guys on different people.”

It was different, alright. The Cowboys had 6-4 walk-on guard Christien Sager defending the post at one point.

As I wrote about in Tuesday’s paper, foul trouble is becoming a disturbing storyline for the Cowboys. The domino affect from losing Michael Cobbins, requiring smaller players to defend and play bigger, is part of it. And there have been silly fouls.

And fatigue could also be a factor, with Ford’s rotation revolving around seven players, with smallish guards Phil Forte and Stevie Clark the only consistent relief off the bench.

At the end of last season, the Cowboys had worn down. And it was evident in both the Big 12 Tournament and the NCAA Tournament.

This season looked to be different, with improved depth offering opportunities to get key guys some rest.

Then came the Cobbins injury. And Marek Soucek and Gary Gaskins failed to earn Ford’s trust. And freshman Leyton Hammonds has struggled to get going in games.

So the fatigue factor again comes into play, now and down the road. And the Cowboys have a series of quick-turns coming up, including Saturday-Monday visits from Baylor and Iowa State.

Kamari Murphy is OSU's lone big man.
Kamari Murphy is OSU's lone big man.

Against OU, Markel Brown officially played 39 minutes. And they were 39 hard minutes.

He came out only briefly in the first half, returning after 47 seconds. The Cowboys lean heavy on Marcus Smart, Kamari Murphy and Le’Bryan Nash as well.

“I gave it all I could out there,” Brown said. “I’m a senior on this team. I’ve been there before. I’m tired after that one. Knee’s sore. Got to regroup. We’ve got Baylor at home.

“Every night is going to be tough for us. We’ve just got to bounce back.”

That’s the new reality for these Cowboys: every night is going to be tough; a grind.

At least that’s the way it appears.

They are talented, for sure. And capable of beating anyone and everyone in the Big 12.

But they are flawed, too.

The Cowboys’ compounded lack of size, and lack of depth, will make a lot of nights stressful. Now, when they’re hitting shots, or turning teams over, things will go a lot easier in creating a fast pace of play that benefits them.

Otherwise, collecting wins will require hard work.

And better work.

“We have a lot of guys in that locker room who can better than they did,” Ford said. “Our team just needs to play better. We’re not playing as well as we’re capable of playing right now.”

by John Helsley
OSU Reporter Sr.
John Helsley grew up in Del City, reading all the newspapers and sports magazines he could get his hands on. And Saturday afternoons, when the Major League Game of the Week was on, he'd keep a scorecard for the game. So the sports appeal was was...
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