Pokes Come Up Short Against Hokies

Oklahoma State got just about everything it could want out of Friday's game against Virginia Tech except a victory. The Cowboys lost 59-57 to the Hokies in the NIT Season Tip-Off consolation game in Madison Square Garden but showed steps of improvement following a blowout loss to Stanford on Wednesday.

The Cowboys (3-2) outplayed the Hokies (4-1) in the second half after trailing by nine at the break but had missed opportunities down the stretch, most notably a wide open 3 from Brian Williams that didn't connect after a beautifully executed play got him wide open on the perimeter that would have tied the game with 46 seconds left.

Markel Brown played inarguably his best game in a Cowboy uniform, leading all scorers with 19 points and also collecting 10 rebounds. He connected on 6-of-7 free throw attempts, showing marked improvement over the first few games. He also tied for the team lead with two assists and led the Pokes with two steals.

J.P. Olukemi also rebounded from a poor performance on Wednesday night, where he was held scoreless in just 10 minutes of play, with 13 points and six rebounds on 6-of-11 shooting.

Brown and Olukemi were key to the Cowboy comeback and their slashing ability helped the Cowboys establish undoubtedly their best half-court offense of the season in the second half, as the Pokes improved their field goal percentage from 34.8 percent in the first half to 46.2 in the second. The team also committed just 11 turnovers.

The Cowboy defense was outstanding, primarily because of strong inside play from Michael Cobbins and Philip Jurick, who tallied two blocks a piece and forced the Hokies to play primarily from the outside. OSU held VT to 31.6 percent shooting for the game but the Hokies managed just 25 percent (7-of-28) in the second half.

Despite the low percentages, Virginia Tech made the shots when it needed to and converted five more free throws than OSU in a two-point victory.

The second half showed positive signs but the Cowboys need to learn how to play a complete game in order to win close games against similarly structured teams. OSU let an early eight-point lead slip away and trailed by as much as 11 late in the first half.

Keiton Page, who is still dealing with a lingering toe injury, was the only other Cowboy to join Brown and Olukemi in double figures with 11 points.

OSU's freshmen duo of Cezar Guerrero and LeBryan Nash was ineffective in the loss, as the two combined for three points. Nash finished with zero points, zero rebounds and no assists with three fouls in 11 minutes.

The Cowboys will have a rematch with Virginia Tech on New Year's Eve in Gallagher-Iba Arena .

Next up, the Cowboys return to Stillwater for a rivalry game against Tulsa at 6 p.m. on Wednesday night. The Golden Hurricane is 4-2.

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