As much as Brad Underwood keeps talking about the history and tradition of Gallagher-Iba Arena, the first-year Oklahoma State coach may begin looking forward to future Cowboys road games. After all, the Cowboys biggest wins this season are over UConn, Georgetown, Wichita State and Tulsa – all away from Stillwater.
The Cowboys broke a 15-game losing streak in conference road games dating back to Feb. 9, 2015 (at Baylor) with Saturday afternoon’s 83-64 victory over Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas. The Big 12 victory was the first for the Cowboys – either home or away – in their last 12 attempts, and in the process ended the Red Raiders 17-game home court winning streak inside United Supermarkets Arena.
OSU improves to 11-8 overall and 1-6 in Big 12 play, while Texas Tech falls to 14-5 and 3-4.
The win was the first Big 12 victory for Underwood, and the 100th overall of his four-year coaching career. which ties him for the 10th fastest coach to reach his 100th victory in college basketball history.
The Cowboys and Red Raiders were tied 5-5 early before Underwood’s team took control over the next six and a half minutes. Jeffrey Carroll (8 points), Phil Forte (5) and Mitchell Solomon (5) led the Cowboys as they went on a 25-5 run to race out to a 30-10 lead.
“The first media timeout I’m not sure they had a basket or maybe two points. I think not being stubborn (in the way I coached), I know the way I like to play and maybe just backing it off just a little bit,” Underwood said. “We played with great energy, it was the most talkative we’ve been as a team, and a lot of that credit goes to Phil.
“Offensively, we’ve got some ability and Phil got going. He made his first three, I think Jeff made his first three. I thought our ball movement and our spread in our half-court offense – we had 18 points at halftime – and we were getting pretty much whatever we wanted. That’s a nice combination when you’re going deep shot clock and you’re getting whatever you want, and then you go down on the other end and get stops.”
OSU’s lead was 46-30 at halftime but the Red Raiders tried their best to make it a game. Keenan Evans’ two free throws with 8:54 remaining allowed Tech to pull within nine points (66-57), but the Cowboys held them scoreless for nearly six minutes – not allowing them to score again on Niem Stevenson’s layup with 2:57 remaining – but by then the outcome was all decided with the Cowboys leading 73-57.
Carroll has been outstanding since Big 12 play opened and it was no different Saturday. The fourth-year junior scored a career-high 25 points and also added a team-best nine rebounds to lead the Cowboys. He was 6-of-12 shooting, including 5-of-5 from behind the three-point line, and also set career highs by making 9-of-12 free throws. In his last six games, Carroll is averaging 21.8 points and 7.2 rebounds.
Forte also had a great game, contributing 21 points, six rebounds and two steals. He was 5-of-6 shooting, including making all four of his three-pointers, and was 7-of-8 from the foul line.
The Cowboys shot 55 percent from the field (22 of 40), and shot 68.8 percent from behind the three-point arc (11 of 16). In addition, they were 28-of-37 on free throws (75.7 percent).
But just as importantly, the Cowboys out-rebounded the Red Raiders 31-18. They had 12 offensive rebounds on only 18 missed field goals.
Underwood also praised the play of senior Leyton Hammonds, who finished with three points, four rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot … but he took two charges when the Red Raiders were making a run early in the second half.
“Those are winning plays. Those are plays that you have to do to win a game,” Underwood said. “I just told the team about Leyton’s charges that that was a big momentum play, and it’s one of the most deflating plays in basketball because it’s a turnover, puts a foul on somebody and usually the other team’s coach gets up an barks at them. It was big. I thought we had guys trying to take charges today.”
The Cowboys return to the court Monday against TCU inside Gallagher-Iba Arena, where they are 6-3 this season. Tip is at 6 p.m.