By Jason Elmquist
STILLWATER, Okla. —
The 22nd-ranked Oklahoma State men’s basketball got a handful Wednesday in the bruising play of USF at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
The Cowboys handled the physical nature of the game to hold on for a 61-49 victory.
“The game was played how I fully anticipated it being played. Most of their games are playing grinding it out,” OSU coach Travis Ford said. “It was a great defensive team we played. The pace was the way they wanted it for much of the night, but we don't really mind playing that way. We’d like it to go a little bit faster.
“Pretty much every timeout I kept telling the team that whoever’s defense is better tonight is who is going to win. This was a defensive battle, and whoever outrebounds the other team (would win).”
Ford was right in that sense. Oklahoma State (6-1) finished with 13 more rebounds than the Bulls (5-3), while also scoring 19 second-chance points and limiting USF to just 7 second-chance points.
The biggest boost the Pokes got came in the performance of center Philip Jurick. The senior from Chattanooga, Tenn., tied his career-high in points with 7, while hauling in a game-high and career-high 14 rebounds.
“I thought Jurick really controlled the middle and handled the glass extremely well for them,” USF coach Stan Heath said. “They got some interior scoring from him, as well.”
Jurick, who is less than a year removed from an Achilles injury that sidelined him for the back end of last season, also gave the Cowboys a big momentum boost when he put back a missed field goal for a one-handed slam with just under seven minutes left in the game — to give OSU its largest lead of the game.
“I’ve never seen him get that high before,” said OSU guard Markel Brown, who is known as a high-flier himself. “I didn’t know he could jump that high. I don't know what got into him on that play.”
On defense, the 6-foot-11, 260-pound center for OSU helped slow down the Bulls. USF’s trio of Anthony White, Martino Brock and Jordan Omogbehin — who played the center spot for the Bulls — went scoreless in the contest.
“I think between his performance and the three guys we had playing at the five was a huge difference in the game,” Heath said. “We got zero points and about 5 rebounds and they got 13 points and 16 rebounds.”
The big night from the OSU big man was needed for the Pokes, who got little production from Le’Bryan Nash, the team’s leading scorer at 19 points per game prior to Wednesday’s contest. Nash didn’t score his first points until the 4:30 mark in the first half and ultimately finished with 6 points in the game.
“In a game like this, when you get in foul trouble and you have to sit out, you are not going to get in a flow — it’s impossible,” Ford said. “In a game like this, if you’re not able to stay out there for a long period of time and get a sweat going and get a feel for their defense, it’s hard to get going. And he had to sit out both halves, only playing 22 minutes —which obviously is not very many for him.”
Oklahoma State got its typical production from point guard Marcus Smart, however, who finished with a game-high 15 points to go with a game-high five assists for the Cowboys. He also came away with a team-high four steals.
OSU will return to Gallagher-Iba Arena on Saturday for a 3 p.m. tipoff against Missouri State, which lost to Tulsa Wednesday night, 61-42.
Cowboy notes: Ford commented after the game on the status of Brian Williams, who was thought to be out for the season. The OSU coach had said on his radio show earlier in the week that there was a chance Williams could be back from his wrist injury earlier than expected.
“I think Brian Williams will play this year, I do think that — hope the trainer’s not listening,” Ford said following Wednesday’s contest. “We’ve just received really good news. He went back a week ago and it was together and as they said, it was over a month ahead of time.
“He’s going to be getting out of his cast and the screws out any day now. Then it’s a matter of strengthening it. ... We’ll see. I’m probably getting a little ahead of myself. But I’m very optimistic.”