Oklahoma State basketball: Three pressing issues the Cowboys must address

The Cowboys remain good, potentially great, with talent and athletes to rival any squad in the country. But Saturday's loss to Kansas State shows they have issues to tend to in confirming their status as a Big 12 contender and a player nationally.
by John Helsley Published: January 5, 2014


photo - Oklahoma State guard Markel Brown, bottom, dives for the ball with Kansas State forward Wesley Iwundu, top, during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Manhattan, Kan., Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014. Kansas State defeated Oklahoma State 74-71. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Oklahoma State guard Markel Brown, bottom, dives for the ball with Kansas State forward Wesley Iwundu, top, during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Manhattan, Kan., Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014. Kansas State defeated Oklahoma State 74-71. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

One game into the Big 12 Conference schedule, and already warning flags have gone up on the No. 6-ranked Cowboys.

Oklahoma State's 74-71 loss at Kansas State on Saturday created concerns about the team's depth, especially if Stevie Clark is no longer in play because of his New Year's Day arrest for a marijuana possession charge.

Injured big man Michael Cobbins was missed in Manhattan, and Travis Ford and his staff are pressed to find solutions. The defense suffered lapses. The offense ran ragged. And stars Marcus Smart and Markel Brown failed to seize control as the dominant players on the floor — which they were.

Now, it's just one game. The Cowboys remain good, potentially great, with talent and athletes to rival any squad in the country. Good teams lose on the road in the Big 12. And the Wildcats, sure to leap into the rankings this week, will win their share of games in the coming weeks and months.

Still, the Cowboys have clear issues to tend to in confirming their status as a Big 12 contender and a player nationally.

A few items on the front burner:

Be like Mike

Replacing Cobbins isn't as easy as accounting for his lost 4.5 point and 4.3 rebounds.

The athletic and long Cobbins impacted games in many ways. Defensively, as a premium shot-blocker and a deterrent to guards charging the lane. And in an underrated way on the offensive end, where his dedicated picks opened opportunities for shooters and slashers and his understanding of the offense aided smooth flow.

His replacement, Kamari Murphy, has played well and offers his own strengths on each end of the floor. However, Murphy's elevation to the starter leaves a void on the bench, one that showed no sign of being filled Saturday.

Ongoing project Marek Soucek can't resist fouling, as he was whistled for three personals in six minutes that produced one rebound and no points. And junior college big man Gary Gaskins continues playing catch-up in learning Ford's system.

The Cowboys can lean on Le'Bryan Nash and Brian Williams and even Smart to play bigger, yet ideally reserves emerge to lessen the load on those key players, who will need occasional blows, or the grind of the season will return unwanted wear and tear.

Continue reading this story on the...

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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