Players said the improvement came mainly from an intense week of practice.
"As disappointed as I was after the first exhibition game, I think the players were probably even more disappointed than I was," OSU coach Travis Ford said. "I think they were anxious to respond."
Among the areas Ford said the team focused on throughout the week was defense, specifically protecting the rim. The Cowboys had no problem in that aspect against the Hornets, forcing 25 turnovers and allowing just 16 points inside.
"The practices leading up to this game, that's what we worked on and it showed in this game," forward Kamari Murphy said.
"That's just how we're going to win this year. For our goals, what we want to do – Final Fours and Big 12 championships — defense is the key."
Although OSU struggled with outside shooting, the turnovers created ample opportunities for fast break finishes, making a perfect setup for high-flying guard Markel Brown.
Brown led all scorers with 14 points, while Marcus Smart (11), Stevie Clark (11), Phil Forte (11), Le'Bryan Nash (10) and Murphy (10) each scored in double figures.
Ford said Clark, a freshman point guard from Oklahoma City, was particularly impressive.
Clark scored 11 points and added six assists and five rebounds, which reflects Ford's focus on Clark being able to influence all areas of a game after being a dominant shooter in high school.
"On this team there's a lot of older players that's been here, so I have to do a lot of facilitating," Clark said. "And then if I get an open shot, hopefully I'll knock it down."
With the regular season opener against Mississippi Valley State coming up Nov. 8, Ford said the team is still looking to improve in many areas, including the wide range of defensive schemes Ford used against ESU.
However, Ford said the sheer fact that the team responded between exhibition games makes for a positive sign going forward.
"The intensity picked up a lot," Clark said. "Coach got on us pretty hard, so we played a lot harder than we did the first game."