By Andrew Glover
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Oklahoma State men’s basketball coach Travis Ford has told his team that conference play is a marathon, not a sprint. After stumbling out of the gates Saturday against Kansas State, the Cowboys hope to even its conference record against the Texas Longhorns at 8 p.m. Wednesday in Gallagher-Iba Arena.
“We are all going to lose some games,” Ford said. “The team that can learn from it and put it aside and move on to the next one is going to be very important.”
OSU lost 74-71 against the Wildcats. Ford said there were several areas that it didn’t perform well — especially on the defensive end.
“We didn’t guard off the dribble very well, which we need to do a better job,” Ford said. “It was one of our poorest defensive performances all year long in a lot of ways. We didn’t execute the scouting report for the first time in awhile.”
One of the contributing factors to the Cowboys’ loss was foul trouble. Four of OSU’s five starters committed at least three fouls. Phil Forte and Marek Soucek also had three. Ford said it may not have affected their play on defense but it definitely played a role.
“Marcus (Smart) didn’t play eight or nine minutes of the second half,” Ford said. “It was a very crucial extent of time. Even though we didn’t play bad during that stretch, it still takes it toll on you. He came back and I don’t think he ever got back into the flow of the game.”
Sophomore forward Kamari Murphy, who is starting in injured post Michael Cobbins’ spot said they need to make adjustments.
“We might have to go small,” Murphy said. “Other guys might have to step up. Not every five-man is our job or is as quick as me. Got to get out on ball screens and get back and do my job as a five man. Other guys do have to step up.”
Oklahoma State is looking to fill the void, that Cobbins left in the lineup after tearing his Achilles tendon in a victory against Robert Morris last week. Murphy, who got starting experience last season, when Cobbins missed games said he’s ready to take a bigger role.
“I’m ready for it mentally and physically,” Murphy said. “It’s nothing I haven’t been through. I know the coaches believe in me. It’s something, I have to pick up and get used to.”
Ford said there isn’t one player that’s going to replace Cobbins and all of his players need to bring their strengths to the game.
“Kamari did it with experience coming off the bench, he did it with a physicality and a versatile game,” Ford said. “(Martin) Soucek doesn’t have that versatile game. (Leyton) Hammonds doesn’t have that experience. I spent the last couple of days talking to those guys about what they can do for this basketball game.”
Texas (11-3, 0-1) is much improved from last season’s 16-18 record and missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998. The Longhorns are led by forward Jonathan Holmes, who is averaging 13.2 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. Center Cameron Ridley is averaging 11 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Murphy said he’s looking forward to battling Ridley and thinks he can match him.
“He’s very aggressive,” Murphy said. “It’s nothing I’ve never seen before. With guys like that I think they have to guard me too. I’m going to have my hands full, so will he.”
The Longhorns are coming off an 88-85 loss to Oklahoma. Forte said Wednesday’s game is going to be very competitive.
“(Texas) played some good competition,” Forte said. “They beat North Carolina in North Carolina and almost beat Michigan State. We know they are coming in as a talented team, with talented players. We know we can’t think about that K-State game, the most important game for us is Texas.”