By Jason Elmquist
STILLWATER, Okla. —
The Oklahoma State University men’s basketball team headed into the 2012-13 season with a renewed focus on rebounding.
Unfortunately, the Cowboys took a little bit of a blow when Michael Cobbins — who was expected to be the starting center for OSU — went down with an injury during an exhibition game.
The loss of the sophomore big man showed in OSU’s season opener against UC-Davis on Friday, in which the Cowboys were outrebounded by 14 in a narrow 73-65 victory.
Oklahoma State will have its hands full again down low on Thursday when the Cowboys take on Akron in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off — scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on ESPNU. The Zips boast a 7-foot center in Zeke Marshall, who is averaging 11.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in Akron’s first two games.
Though OSU got just three minutes from Philip Jurick in the close win over UC-Davis, OSU coach Travis Ford said it’s likely the 6-11, 260-pound senior center and Marek Soucek will see more playing time against Akron — and may even crack the starting lineup.
“One of them very well could start — probably Philip more than Marek right now,” Ford said. “... I should have played Jurick more the other night. Watching the tape, probably should have played him more. He did a little better job running around than I thought he was going to do trying to chase those 3-point shooters around.”
With Cobbins out and Jurick still recovering from a late-season injury, freshman forward Kamari Murphy has been called upon to do the heavy work down low. Murphy, a 6-8, 210-pound freshman from Brooklyn, N.Y., started at forward in the season opener and finished with six rebounds and four blocked shots.
“It was my overall goal throughout the year to become a starter, but now that I have it, it’s not like I’m backing away from it,” Murphy said. “In practice, you can tell the coaches are yelling a little more and their forcing more things of me because I have a bigger role now. I’m just taking that role and taking it one step at a time.”
Fortunately for Murphy, Cobbins has still be vocal while sidelined for a month and has been helping the freshman forward.
“When practice started, as a young player when coaches yell at you or get on you, you seem to get down. But he just gave me tips on how to take it and how to change things and get through adversity,” Murphy said. “As an older player, he’s really helping me get through some things a freshman would normally go through.”
But with the Zips averaging nearly 40 rebounds per game, the Cowboys understand it will also take the guards crashing the glass if they are to find some balance in rebounding.
“Michael was one of our big, key rebounders and with him out that kind of gives us a little stress on the rebounding end,” freshman guard Marcus Smart said. “So the guards are going to have to come in and pick up a little bit of slack.”