Cowboys Come Alive In Second Half

STILLWATER – Travis Ford saw plenty of good Friday night in Oklahoma State’s season opener. Le’Bryan Nash’s 22 points in 31 minutes. Phil Forte’s 17 points and six steals. Anthony Allen’s 12 rebounds, 8 points and 4 blocks. The Cowboys taking control in the second half in an 83-55 victory over Southeastern Louisiana. But the most impressive performance may have been from Leyton Hammonds.

The 6-7 sophomore was making the first start of his career after scoring a grand total of 48 points while playing in 31 games a year ago. Many Cowboys fans remember his buzzer-beating three-pointer at the end of the regulation to send the game at Baylor into overtime last season.

But Hammonds showed Friday night against Southeastern Louisiana why it may be difficult for Ford to keep him off the court.

He scored a career-high 16 points on 4-of-6 shooting from three-point range and added 3 rebounds, 2 blocks and a steal without a turnover in 24 minutes of play.

“He opens it up for everybody else when he’s knocking shots down,” said Forte, who was 5-of-7 from behind the arc. “We’ve all seen him do it in practice. It doesn’t surprise me to see him knocking shots down because I’ve seen him do it hundreds of times in practice. Then fans haven’t seen it as much but we’re expecting a big year out of him. He can be a positive spark for us on offense.”

Hammonds said, "I'm always a believer in fast starts, starting off good and having a good foundation. This game I felt like I put myself in the right direction on defense, being more active, that's my main focus. Offense will always come, but helping this team out I feel like I can help out on defense and rebounding. I felt good today so I'll keep improving."

The OSU coaching staff knows what to expect from Nash, Forte and senior Michael Cobbins when he is able to get back on the court after missing the first three regular season games, but Ford is concerned with which Cowboys will provide other scoring options.

Hammonds may have answered that question Friday night.

“He’s been working hard on his shooting. We don’t want him to become just a three-point shooter, but he can make them,” Ford said. “I’ve not been happy with his rebounding. At this size, we’ve challenged him to be aggressive and affect the game because he has the ability to do that. He’s almost 6-9 and long, and rangy, and can do a lot of things. I thought he had a good first game.

“We need him to affect the stat sheet more. I’d like for him to get five or six rebounds a game at least. But I thought he shot the ball well, (and) I thought he had a couple of blocked shots. Those points he gave us we needed.”

It appeared that the Cowboys were going to need every point they scored at one point. They only led 35-33 at halftime and it was still a two-point game a few minutes into the second half.

The Cowboys took over, with Hammonds, Nash, Forte and Anthony Hickey leading the way, outscoring the Lions 43-17 over the game’s last 18 minutes. In the second half, OSU used runs of 8-0, 10-0 and 8-0 to take control.

"It was as big of a turnaround as I've seen from one half to the other,” Ford said. “We talked about some things at halftime that we had to change. We made a few adjustments and we totally took them out in transition. I don't know if they scored any points in transition in the second half.

“We made some shots, and when you make shots, that gives you energy. I told our guys that sometimes the game is going to be ugly. This was an ugly game for about 30 minutes. We just hung in there playing against a really scrappy basketball team; a team I like.

“I loved the effort in the second half. We played to our identity. We let our defense create some offense and we passed the basketball. We had 19 assists tonight. We'll take that every night.”

The Cowboys extended their winning streak to 20 in season openers, dating back to 1994-95. OSU is now 94-12 all-time in season openers and has won 39 straight season home openers inside Gallagher-Iba Arena.

They are back in action Sunday for the second game of four during an eight-day stretch on Sunday against Prairie View A&M at Gallagher-Iba Arena. Tip is scheduled for 2 p.m.

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