Brown A Bright Spot In OSU Victory

Markel Brown sure has found a way to get himself involved in highlight plays and Sunday afternoon was a spectacle of his athletic ability.

Brown had three emphatic dunks that got the modest showing of approximately 1,500 in Gallagher-Iba on their feet in the Pokes' otherwise unspectacular 80-58 victory against Langston.

The most memorable of his highlight finishes was a 360 reverse alley-oop he converted in the first half that brought back fond memories of Desmond Mason's acrobatics in the air. He even added a fourth slam on a put back that didn't count because of a foul.

But for everything he can do above the rim, it's what Brown does everywhere else that has turned him into the Cowboys' best player seven games into the young season.

Brown's name pops up all over the stat sheet and it did again Sunday. He finished with 19 points, five assists, four rebounds, two blocks, one steal and just one turnover in 29 minutes. He also shot 6-of-7 from the floor and made his lone 3-point attempt.

Joining Brown in the category of positives in the OSU victory was Keiton Page. Page has been struggling with lingering injuries but appeared much quicker and more agile on Sunday, leading the team with 20 points in a team-high 34 minutes, including four first-half 3's that helped the Cowboys pull away.

Michael Cobbins also put in perhaps his best performance of the year with 10 points, five rebounds and two blocks while receiving more minutes than usual because of foul troubles limiting Philip Jurick's availability.

J.P. Olukemi finished with seven points and a game-high 10 rebounds, Cezar Guerrero played sparingly as he is still overcoming an illness but managed eight points on 3-of-5 shooting in just 14 minutes and Le'Bryan Nash had nine points and five boards put committed a career-high seven turnovers in 16 minutes.

Every Cowboy that played scored on the night but Brown, Page and Cobbins were the three most reliable options in a game the rest of the team didn't appear overly excited to play.

Turnovers not the only thing slowing the Pokes' pace

Asked if the careless turnovers was the main reason this team hasn't been able to get the up-tempo pace Ford projected before the season going, the Cowboy coach added another factor into the equation.

In addition to the turnovers, of which OSU had 21 against the out-manned Lions, Ford also pointed to the team's inability to rebound effectively on the defensive end and push the floor.

"(Turnovers) and rebounding has really hurt our up-tempo. It has really, really hurt," Ford said. "The rebounding has been (the biggest detractor) but tonight it was turnovers. In the past, we haven't been able to get out on the break because the best time to run is on a missed shot or a turnover and we haven't been rebounding the basketball. It's really hurt us.

"We want to play up-tempo but I told our guys we can't get caught up in that until we figure out what we have to do to win. We need to play defense and rebound and execute on offense, whether that means playing very up-tempo, which we will, or if we need to guard. It's always easier to slow a team down than to speed it up. Some people are just going to grind it out with you and we've had a lot of teams lately that have just tried to grind it out with us and you have to adjust, which we have pretty well. But overall rebounding has been what's slowed us down the most and it was turnovers tonight. I mean, 21 turnovers? Give me a break."

Gulley plays

Point guard Fred Gulley came in late in the first half and ended up playing 16 minutes in the Pokes' victory over Langston. Gulley was injured in OSU's blowout loss to Stanford in New York City and underwent a battery of tests on his left shoulder once the team returned to Stillwater. His status was uncertain but safe to say it is a benefit for the Pokes to have him back this early.

"His defense really helped us and really gave us a great spark," Ford said. "I didn't plan on playing him that much…I thought he passed the ball pretty well."

Gulley finished with one point, four assists and three turnovers.

Tough road ahead

The Cowboys' recent struggles are a bad indicator as this team is about to face one of the toughest stretches any team in the country will face in nonconference play. Sunday was the last game OSU will play in GIA until New Year's Eve when it hosts a team it already lost to, Virginia Tech, for another shot at the Hokies.

What awaits them in between will test this young basketball team and will certainly challenge it to grow up in a hurry.

On Wednesday, OSU heads to Springfield, Mo., to face a tough Missouri State squad in front of a sold-out crowd on national television (ESPNU) before heading back to New York City on Saturday to face national power Pitt in Madison Square Garden in its first of four-straight neutral site games. The Cowboys then face New Mexico in the All-College in Oklahoma City before heading to Birmingham to take on Alabama and Dallas to face SMU.

Every one of those teams was picked to finish in the top half of its league or higher in the preseason.

"It's one of the toughest stretches, I don't want to say ever, but in a long, long time," Ford said.

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