No. 7 Cowboys Prepare For Their Next Test

Final exams will be over and school will be out, leaving the Oklahoma State Cowboys with only one priority for the next four weeks — basketball. It gets started Saturday when No. 7 OSU takes on Louisiana Tech in the All-College Classic at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City. Game time is 1 p.m.

Now that OSU (8-1) is able to devote its full focus to basketball, players said they view it as a needed opportunity to improve their games and bond as a team.

"It's great," forward Brian Williams said. "It's my favorite time of year. Basketball is a little easier to manage."

However, the Cowboys face a formidable challenge to open the break. Louisiana Tech (8-2) spent time in the top 25 last season and is led by a strong trio of guards in Kenneth Smith, Raheem Appleby and Alex Hamilton.

OSU head coach Travis Ford says Smith, who averages 6.4 points and 6.6 assists per game, is one of the best point guards he's watched.

"He really understands the role of a point guard," Ford said. "He's a great passer. Plays at a very high speed. Great intensity, great energy."

Ford said the Bulldogs team mirrors his own. With an experienced roster of reliable guards and versatile posts, Ford expects the Bulldogs to provide a strong challenge.

"They're very experienced, great one-on-one players," Ford said. "And their players understand their roles."

Consistent with most games this season, focal points for the Pokes will be to continue their solid 50.6 shooting percentage and win the rebounding battle.

To this point in the year, OSU has thrived off typical strong play from Marcus Smart and Markel Brown, but the team is also benefitting greatly from its role players.

Among those is sophomore forward Kamari Murphy, who averages 5.5 points and 6.4 rebounds per contest. This season has marked vast improvement from Murphy's up and down freshman campaign.

He said the reasoning is simple — confidence. It's jolted him into a role Ford has described as being a "junkyard dog" because Murphy is often called on to do the dirty work in the paint.

"On this basketball team, he may not be the first option for scoring, but he is the first option on rebounding, 50-50 balls, putbacks, (and) running the court," Ford said.

"There are so many things he can do to help out the team, be successful and also make our team look great. And he's doing that. I'm very proud of him."

Ford said he has stressed players knowing their roles this season, and Murphy is a prime example of the success that's possible with that mindset.

Saturday against Louisiana tech, Murphy and the Cowboys will look to see more results. "If I can continue to do what I do and everybody else do what they do, we can be a complete team," Murphy said.

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