"This was the first game. Everybody had to get the first game jitters out," said Lucas, who scored a game-high 24 points in leading the seventh-ranked Cowboys to the 91-53 victory.
"We have practice tomorrow, and we're going to get better. The next game you'll see improvement," Lucas continued. "We've got a long season ahead of us. This is one game down in getting to St. Louis, and that's how I look at it."
Lucas was joined in double figures by Joey Graham (18 points), Ivan McFarlin (14 points) and JamesOn Curry (12 points). Frans Steyn and Stephen Graham each contributed nine points.
But the 38-point victory left the OSU coaching staff seething after watching the Cowboys get outrebounded 35-29 (including allowing 16 offensive rebounds) by the smaller Northwestern State team.
"That wasn't a very pretty game. I think we're happy that we won the game but we certainly did not play very well," said head coach designate Sean Sutton. "The thing that was disappointing to us tonight was last year after we got hammered by BYU on the glass out in Salt Lake City we came back and really make a commitment to rebounding the ball. From that point on, I don't remember but maybe two, three games where we may have gotten outrebounded.
"Tonight for us to get outrebounded by this team by six, and give up 16 offensive rebounds, there's something wrong. Right now, our guys are not playing with the same intensity, they're not playing with the same energy level. They are not making the commitment that last year's team made when it came to defense and rebounding. In the second half, I thought they were pitiful how bad they played at that end of the court. I've never seen as many lay-ups in our arena as they got tonight."
Part of that was because Terrence Crawford (groin injury) did not play and Ivan McFarlin (hip pointer) was not at full strength. McFarlin had a very uncharacteristic night for him, grabbing just two rebounds in 30 minutes of play.
If not for Northwestern State turning the ball over 28 times (which led to 39 points by the Cowboys) and committing 30 fouls (compared to OSU's 13) it would have been a much different game.
But the outcome was never really in doubt even though the Cowboys led by just 16-12 with 10 minutes left in the first half. That's when Curry, the freshman playing in his first ever collegiate game, took control.
Curry scored the first of what will be many points in a Cowboy uniform over the next few years when he slammed home a dunk on a fast break after a John Lucas steal and Stephen Graham assist. Moments later, Curry stole the ball from Northwestern State's Tyronn Mitchell and went the length of the court for a second dunk to put the Cowboys up 20-12.
Following a couple of free throws by Joey Graham, Curry showed the Cowboy fans why he is the North Carolina high school basketball all-time leading scorer when he drained a 3-pointer from about 24 feet. Lucas added a spectacular layup and Curry hit one of two free throws as the Cowboys took control.
During a three and a half minute span Curry scored eight points and the Cowboys went from four points up to a 28-17 lead.
Curry was one of the few Cowboys to receive praise from Sean Sutton. The OSU coach also seemed pleased with the play of Steyn, who finished with nine points, five rebounds and two blocked shots in 23 minutes of action.
"He played well," Sean Sutton said. "The last two days in practice he's really played well. We talked to him last week and we told him by no means had we given up on him. But he had to carry it from the practice court to the game, and start showing some production. Hopefully he can take this to Tuesday night and carry this momentum."
"Tonight was really one of the first nights that I felt comfortable," Steyn said. "I do well in practice and there is no excuse to not do well in the game. Tonight I just calmed myself down and played."
The Cowboys return to Gallagher-Iba Arena to face Arkansas-Little Rock on Tuesday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m.
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