By Jason Elmquist
Stillwater News Press
EDMOND, Okla. —
It’s been beaten to death just how undersized this Oklahoma State squad is since the season-ending injury to Michael Cobbins before the conference season.
After all, their starting “center” is 6-foot-8, 220-pound forward Kamari Murphy.
But there’s an advantage to that fact that the Cowboys were finally able to utilize in Saturday’s 84-62 victory against Texas Tech — they can run the floor.
The greatest equalizer to size is athleticism. And that is something OSU has in abundance.
Oklahoma State has tried at times this season to get the ball to junior forward Le’Bryan Nash to allow him to use his athleticism against bigger post players. The problem is, Nash isn’t always on his game — or opposing defenses know the game play and crash down on the 6-foot-7, 235-pounder from Dallas.
In order for this game plan to be effective, however, the Cowboys need to repeat their performance from Saturday — by getting their offense started through their defense.
Oklahoma State had 21 points off of turnovers, which led to 23 fastbreak points. Those are easier points to gather than free throws — which was surprisingly better for OSU, which knocked down 19 of 23 attempts from the charity stripe.
“It’s a big key for us because we’re so athletic and have guys who can do a lot of things, that if we can get out in transition and run and get those easy baskets it relieves pressure on us in the half court,” said sophomore point guard Marcus Smart, who played in his first game since serving a three-game suspension.
The freebies can also help counterbalance Oklahoma State’s struggles at times to run a successful half-court set. Even before Smart’s absence, the Cowboys had a rough time running set plays, especially late in games — which had resulted in eight losses by six points or less.
OSU is at its best when the tempo is high — either in basketball or football, for that matter.
If they aren’t going to run out big men Mason Cox or Marek Soucek, there is no need to worry about being slowed down by the center. Murphy is athletic enough to keep up with his faster teammates, all of which will prevent opposing defenses to get in place and collapse on Nash in the blocks.
That’s why Nash scored 21 points to lead the Cowboys to a 42-28 advantage in points in the paint.
The Cowboys will be tested by bigger teams down the stretch, and must take advantage of their athleticism now that Smart has returned to the lineup.
Though Cowboy coach Travis Ford reiterated that his squad still needs to be more successful in the half-court set, they also need to push the pace more than they have all year.
It doesn’t matter how good your half-court set is when facing a defensive power like Kansas on Saturday. But a defense can’t stop you as effectively when it’s having to chase you down.
Jason Elmquist is sports editor of The Stillwater News Press. He can be contacted at email@example.com.