STILLWATER — Oklahoma State's first eight possessions against Louisiana Tech on Saturday: seven missed shots and a turnover.
So started a sluggish afternoon offensively, with the Cowboys never sustaining any flow or rhythm.
And still the No. 7-ranked Cowboys rolled, winning by 15 points.
Defense was the difference.
“When your defense is on point, that's what matters,” said OSU guard Marcus Smart, who had four steals against Tech, giving him a Big 12-best 30 in 10 games. “You're going to have off games on offense, that's just the nature of the game. We're humans. So that's going to happen. But if you're focused on the defense, that can make up for a lot of things that may not go right on the offensive end.”
The Cowboys have been dialed in on defense, residing at or near the top of every major defensive category in the Big 12 statistical rankings. And the numbers should improve when OSU hosts Delaware State on Tuesday in a 7 p.m. tip at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
Maybe it's time to change the label on Travis Ford.
“I've always been known for offense, because my teams score a lot of points,” Ford said. “But people don't understand, we've had very good defensive numbers since I've been here.”
Still, the Cowboys have never, Ford said, had a better defensive team under his watch. And the numbers back it up.
In the Big 12, OSU ranks No. 1 in steals and turnover margin; No. 2 in scoring defense, field goal percentage defense and blocked shots; No. 3 in 3-point field goal percentage defense.
All that from a team that plays fast, averages 88.4 points per game and leads the league in scoring margin. Only three teams have managed as many as 70 points against the Cowboys.
“I like our defense,” Ford said. “And I don't mind quietly going about it, as long as our team understands — defense and rebounding wins games and championships.
“You control the game with your offense. You don't want your offense to hurt your defense.
But we fully grasp and understand that defense is where it's won.”
The Cowboys don't just grasp playing defense, they embrace it.
Louisiana Tech entered its game against OSU averaging 86.2 points through 10 games, and managed 55 Saturday. Even as the Cowboys scuffled on the offensive end early, the Bulldogs couldn't gain traction, held to 20 percent shooting from the floor — 6 of 30 — and 18 points in the first half.