No. 15 Oklahoma State is in the middle of a nine-day layoff during finals week. But the Cowboys aren’t forgetting about basketball.

Sean Sutton’s 11-0 club whipped Ball State, 75-56, in San Diego last Saturday.

One player who especially enjoyed that trip is junior swingman Marcus Dove, a Long Beach, Calif., native who was close to home.

“It was fun,” Dove said. “I got to see a lot of family I haven’t seen in a while and friends too. I had about 30 people there.”

Of course, Dove could hear his fans well because the arena was mostly empty. The 6-foot-9, 215-pounder said it reminded him of playing in high school.

“It looks funny going out there,” Dove said. “We come out here (in Gallagher-Iba Arena) and things are filled up. We go out there and the place is empty.”

Dove and the rest of the Cowboys will be in Nashville on Monday to face Tennessee (7-2).

Ask the players about visiting the country music capital and they sound a little less excited about the location than they were about visiting The Big Apple or the beaches of San Diego.

“It’s just another place to go,” said senior forward Mario Boggan. “It’s a bit country. It will be two teams from country places going at it.”

It will be the second OSU contest since the squad edged No. 21 Syracuse, 72-68, in New York City’s Madison Square Garden in a nationally televised game Dec. 5.

“Last week was a good week for us,” Sutton said. “We had two good wins and great exposure for our players and our program. We played in front of all of ESPN’s key people (in NYC) and beat a very good Syracuse team.”

While the Cowboys are in the middle of a layoff, they are also in the midst of a long stretch without any home games. OSU hasn’t played in GIA since a 90-74 win against Pepperdine on Dec. 2 and they won’t play in Stillwater again until Texas-San Antonio comes to town on Dec. 30.

Sutton said he’d like to have one or two home games in the current four-contest stretch, but television dictated otherwise.

“You have to play when they set the game,” Sutton said. “You want to get your program on TV as much as you can.”

Along those same lines, Sutton said he is pleased his team is getting exposure by climbing to 15th in the poll, but he’s not convinced his squad deserves to be that high, yet.

“There are five to seven teams that are really good right now in college basketball and another 40 right there together,” Sutton said. “I don’t know if we’re a Top 20 team or not, but it’s a good reward for the players and it’s exciting for the fans. I’m more concerned about being ranked in March.”

The players seem split on how much the rankings matter.

“It shows we’re back on the map nationally,” Dove said. “We’re getting back to where we were two or three years ago.”

Boggan said he doesn’t pay attention to the polls.

“I feel like rankings don’t mean much,” Boggan said. “It’s just about how hard you come out and play everyday.”

After a 17-16 campaign last year, Sutton expected the Cowboys to be better this season but he said he wasn’t sure if his team could start 11-0.

“I think we’re getting better, but we still have a lot of areas we can improve in,” Sutton said. “That’s encouraging. We’re 11-0 and I still see a lot of room for improvement.”

He added, “Certain guys have probably played better than I anticipated. A few haven’t played as well. As soon as we get through this week, we’ll have a lot of time to get better. Certain individuals need to elevate their game.”

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