STILLWATER – If there was ever a must-win game on Jan. 2, this was it for Oklahoma State. Even though it was just the Big 12 opener for both teams, the Cowboys knew they had to win Saturday’s conference opener against TCU inside Gallagher-Iba Arena.
Thanks to the second-half efforts of senior Jeff Newberry and freshman Jawun Evans the Cowboys rolled to an easy 69-48 victory over the Horned Frogs in front of a GIA crowd of about 4,000 people.
The Cowboys, now 9-4 overall and 1-0 in Big 12 play, needed Saturday’s win because of the tough conference schedule over the next 17 days – at No. 23 Baylor (Tuesday night), at No. 19 West Virginia (next Saturday), vs. No. 3 Oklahoma (Jan. 13), at Texas (Jan. 16), and vs. No. 2 Kansas (Jan. 19).
"Our guys were really focused from the tip,” said OSU head coach Travis Ford. “We have talked about our identity as a team and what we want that to be, today it was defense. We aren’t the greatest offensive team. We are going to have to win games with our defense. That means you have to scrap and claw.
“A word we have talked about as a team this week is relentless. We had our boys define it for us, what does it mean and then we outlined how are we going to gauge ourselves if we are going to be relentless. During every timeout, we gauged where we were on deflections, on 50/50 balls, rebounding margin and charges. We won three of the four. We have to have an overachieving mentality, if we have that then we give ourselves a chance.”
Newberry, Evans and the rest of the Cowboys knew they could not afford to lose to the Horned Frogs, who were picked next to last in the Big 12 preseason poll by the league coaches. But the Cowboys only led 26-24 at halftime Saturday.
But that’s when Newberry and Evans took control as the Cowboys outscored the Frogs 43-24 in the second half.
Newberry scored 16 points in the second half, including 11in a row midway through the period to grow the Cowboys lead to 56-36 with under six minutes to play. The senior from Atlanta finished with a team-best 23 points and a team-high eight rebounds. His 23-point effort tied his career high last season against West Virginia.
“There’s no secret recipe to becoming a great player. It’s about getting extra shots in, it’s about doing the extra work. It will pay off for you,” Ford said. “I had a long talk with our team about this. If you have a good attitude and you work hard eventually you will have success.
“Newberry has stayed very positive. He finally got his mask off, this is his first game back without it. He’s a lot more comfortable without it. We’ve given our players freedom to shoot the ball if they are open. Because, about two or three games ago, we were hesitating too much with the basketball. We are going to win games on the defensive end. Win it on defense, and then have fun on offense. Newberry is one of the players on our team that can score in a variety of ways, and we need him to get his 12-14 points each game.”
Evans only played six minutes in the first half after picking up two fouls, but his 13 points (including making 9 of 10 free throws), three steals, three rebounds and two assists helped the Cowboys pull away.
“I thought Jawun really got loose and got in a rhythm. As we said over on the bench, he's got his game face on now,” Ford said. “He's pretty good when he's got his game going.” I thought Leyton Hammonds had a really good second half. I thought Mitchell Solomo
Also scoring in double figures for the Cowboys were Leyton Hammonds with 11 points (9 in the second half) and Jeffrey Carroll with 10.
The Horned Frogs shot a dismal 30 percent from the field (their second-worst shooting effort of the season), and made just 1 of 17 three-pointers (despite shooting 32.4 percent from behind the arc entering the game).
“Anytime we've had success this year, it has been a collective effort from this team,” Ford said. “Anthony Allen had a great start. Jeff Newberry had a terrific game. Jawun Evans in the second half. Leyton Hammonds, Mitchell Solomon, Tyree Griffin gave us three assists. Jeffrey Carroll has 10 points for us. That's who we are, we have no superstars. We are a collective unit. We are the definition of winning as a team. I thought we did that today."
Normal 0 false false false EN-US JA X-NONE
The Cowboys now go on the road to face Baylor on Tuesday night. The Bears, 10-3, suffered a 102-74 loss to Kansas in their Big 12 opener on Saturday afternoon.