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OSU basketball: Cowboys' NCAA hopes might come down to five players

With Michael Cobbins injured, Stevie Clark's dismissal and Marcus Smart's suspension, OSU can ill-afford many more losses. Markel Brown, Le'Bryan Nash, Kamari Murphy, Brian Williams and Phil Forte will be counted on a lot over the next three games.
by John Helsley Published: February 10, 2014

photo -  Phil Forte, left, has become a focus of opposing defenses.  Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman
Phil Forte, left, has become a focus of opposing defenses. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

Five Guys is the new thing in Stillwater.

Not the burger joint, the basketball team.

Oklahoma State's fading hope to stay afloat as an NCAA Tournament team essentially comes down to five guys: Markel Brown, Le'Bryan Nash, Kamari Murphy, Brian Williams and Phil Forte.

Those five, because frankly, who else is there, in the aftermath of Marcus Smart's three-game suspension, which begins Tuesday night at No. 19-ranked Texas?

No other available Cowboy has played in every Big 12 game, or contributed more than one basket in league play.

And that's not one basket a game; one basket total.

Of course, OSU coach Travis Ford will be forced to find some help on his bench, an action he's resisted, although walk-on Christien Sager seems to be gaining favor of late. Leyton Hammonds, Marek Soucek and Gary Gaskins are likely to find minutes, if for no other reason than to give the starters some sense of a breather.

“We have opportunities for players to step up, opportunities for our team to grow right now,” Ford said. “Obviously, Marcus has been a major identity of our basketball team. This is going to give an opportunity for some of them who haven't been playing quite as much, to pick, up the slack while he is out.”

Except no one from the bench brigade has done much with chances so far.

Freshman Jeffrey Carroll would appear to be an option, but Ford seems committed to keeping him in redshirt.

The Cowboys are essentially three men down. Michael Cobbins is out for the season due to injury. Stevie Clark is gone, booted for multiple team and law infractions.

And now Smart sits for three games — three potentially critical games in Oklahoma State's NCAA Tournament résumé.

The Cowboys can still be found in bracket projections. Jerry Palm has OSU as a No. 7 seed, while Joe Lunardi slots the Pokes as a No. 8. But both scenarios are built on wins in the bank, what the Cowboys have already done, through a strong nonconference run and early in the Big 12.

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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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