Defense Leads Cowboys To Ninth Victory

STILLWATER – Michael Cobbins, Phil Forte, Le’Bryan Nash and Jeff Newberry combined for 51 points Tuesday night but it was Oklahoma State’s defense which was the difference in the Cowboys 68-44 victory over Middle Tennessee State. The Blue Raiders shot just 31 percent from the field and their 44 points was the fewest allowed by the Cowboys since last December.

OSU improves to 9-1 with the victory, while Middle Tennessee State falls to 5-5.

As lopsided as the final score was it was anything but a runaway for the Cowboys through the game’s first 10 minutes. OSU led just 18-16 with a little more than 10 minutes to play in the first half before Cobbins’ got his team rolling.

The Cowboys outscored the Blue Raiders 22-5 over the next 10:08 of the first half to take control of the game, racing to a 40-21 lead and building it to as many as 25 in the second half.

Nash (16 points), Cobbins (12), Forte (12) and Newberry (11) led the scoring for the Cowboys but it was the defense that pleased head coach Travis Ford.

"It was just kind of business-like out there tonight. I thought that in the first half the defense was really, really good," Ford said. "This is a 20-point win, but it is really like a 30-point win with the way that they play.

"The first half was very good. We didn't play very well in the second half, but we got everybody in. I'm just glad we won against a team that is very high right now. Middle Tennessee came in here with a lot of confidence, playing very good basketball, and we took care of business from the beginning. I thought we started the game really well as far as our intensity was concerned."

OSU has now held its opponents to 58 or fewer points seven times this season. The 44 points by Middle Tennessee State is the fewest the Cowboys have allowed since a 75-43 victory over Delaware State on Dec. 17, 2013.

The Cowboys entered the game ranked 14th nationally by holding opponents to 36.5 percent shooting from the field. The Pokes limited Middle Tennessee to 31.1 percent, making the Blue Raiders the eighth of OSU’s 10 opponents to shoot worse than 39 percent from the field against the Cowboys.

Cobbins ranks seventh on OSU’s career blocks list, adding to it Tuesday night with four blocks. Forte entered the game averaging 3.1 steals per game, sixth in the nation, and he came up with two more against the Blue Raiders. Also, Anthony Hickey recorded three steals.

"Michael (Cobbins) played a terrific game," Ford said. "His blocked shots really give us great energy and really fuel our team. They're basket-saving blocked shots. Guys are driving in there, and he's coming from the weak side and blocking shots.

"I told him in the locker room that he's put back-to-back games together and now we need a third one. He played a heck of a game today."

In the first half, the Blue Raiders had more turnovers (nine) than field goals (seven).

The Cowboys outscored the Blue Raiders 23-9 in points off turnovers, and OSU had a wide margin (32-8) in points scored in the paint.

"Give Oklahoma State a lot of credit, they're a very experienced team, very well coached, very physical," said Middle Tennessee State head coach Kermit Davis. "These guys have won a lot of games right here; there was a really good home court advantage.

"I'm just disappointed in the way we played, not the loss. Give Oklahoma State credit, they're really, really good, physical, they start four seniors, they showed it tonight and just kind of took it to us."

The Cowboys will face a much tougher challenge Sunday when 17th-ranked Maryland (10-1) visits Gallagher-Iba Arena. Tip-off for the nationally televised game (ESPNU) is 1 p.m.

The Terrapins only loss this season was a 76-65 setback to No. 6 Virginia on Dec. 3. They include in their 10 victories a 72-63 over No. 13 Iowa State on Nov. 25.

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