Head coach Travis Ford's team entered the game as one of the nation's highest scoring teams, averaging 88.4 points per game (ninth nationally), but the Cowboys used their defense to clamp down on a Delaware State team that is offensively challenged. OSU led 30-16 at halftime and Delaware State finished with more turnovers (17) than field goals (16) in the game.
The Cowboys opened the second half with an 18-2 run, looking more like the team that rolled to impressive wins over Memphis and South Carolina.
"I liked the way we played as far as the effort. We didn't play very well. It wasn't the greatest shooting and things like that but I really like how we came out in the second half. I thought the energy level went up for us, I thought our half-court defense was good again. Overall, happy with the effort and happy with the outcome," Ford said.
Delaware State struggles to score offensively, partly because head coach Greg Jackson's slow, deliberate offense uses up much of the 35-second shot clock and then the Hornets are forced to fire up a low-percentage before the clock expires. That may explain their 40.5 shooting percent from the field (314th out of 345 Division I teams) entering Tuesday night.
Going against the taller, quicker and more aggressive Cowboys sure didn't help. They made their first shot of the game – for their only lead at 2-1 – but went four minutes without scoring again, and made just five other field goals in the first half. The Hornets were simply atrocious offensively during an eight-minute stretch in the first half. They went 14 consecutive possessions without scoring a point – missing eight field goals and committing six turnovers – as the Cowboys stretched their lead from one point to 22-7.
The Cowboys forced the Hornets into seven shot-clock violations in the game and limited them to 28.6 percent shooting for the game, bettering their previous best effort against Utah State (29.2 percent) in a 93-40 victory on Nov. 12.
"(Forcing a shot-clock violation) means we're playing defense. If we can hold a team for 35 seconds and not give them a good shot, it means we're locked in and playing defense, and there's no weakness in the defense. That's what we did tonight. We knew this team was going to take it all the way down to five seconds and we knew when we heard 10 seconds we had to really dig in and make them take tough shots, and that's what we did," said Le'Bryan Nash, who tied for the team lead with 14 points (along with Markel Brown) and also had a team-best eight rebounds.
"We knew what they were going to do, and it's not always easy to play against. It's really not," Ford said of Delaware State's deliberate style of play. "You'd better be disciplined and stay locked in the whole shot clock, and when it gets under 10 that's when they're going to try to score, and then you have to expect a shot because they're going to get any shot. It could be any shot, and when they shoot it's probably going to be a tough one."
Ford was asked where shot-clock violations rank as far as defensive stops. "For any coach, it's way, way up there. No question. When you get a shot-clock violation it makes every coach feel great, and it makes your team feel good. It means you've stopped every option and they can't even get a shot off. That's as good as it gets."
Nash and Brown each scored 14 points but they received help from Stevie Clark (nine points), Marcus Smart (eight points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals) and Michael Cobbins (eight points, three rebounds and three blocks). Kamari Murphy played just 20 minutes off the bench and finished with seven rebounds, five points and four blocks.
OSU will face a much tougher challenge Saturday when they travel to Las Vegas to face 20th-ranked Colorado in the MGM Grand Showcase. The Buffaloes, 10-1, only loss this season was to Baylor 72-60 in the first game of the season in Dallas, and since then they have not left the state of Colorado to win 10 games in a row, including a 75-72 win over Kansas on Dec. 7.