Cowboys Get Defensive

STILLWATER, Okla. - Oklahoma State flexed its muscle with a defensive performance Saturday that would have made Henry Iba proud. Mr. Iba, known for preaching defense during his Hall of Fame coaching career, would have found little wrong as the sixth-ranked Cowboys dominated Washington State from start to finish in an 81-29 victory – yes, 81-29 is correct – on Saturday at Gallagher-Iba Arena.

The Cowboys held Washington State to just 21.8 percent shooting from the field, outrebounded the Cougars 44-22 and led 29-2 at one point en route to the victory. The 52-point margin of defeat for Washington State ties for the largest in school history (UCLA won 93-41 on Feb. 5, 1965).

"That was a good defensive performance by our team," said OSU assistant coach James Dickey. "I thought the biggest key to the game for us was not allowing them to control any tempo. I thought that was the best intensity we've had (this season). I thought our defense was outstanding.

"That type of intensity, that commitment to the defensive end, is something that we've really stressed. I thought we really saw some of that in the second half in Dallas (on Monday) against SMU. The guys have had some pretty good practices this week. They understand the level of competition is about to change drastically."

The Cowboys were impressive in jumping out to a 13-0 lead. In the game's first eight minutes the Cowboys forced the Cougars to turn the ball over eight times and only allowed them six shots -- all of which they missed.

Washington State (3-2) finally got on the scoreboard when Shami Gill hit a jumper with 10:37 left in the half to pull within 13-2. But the Cowboys then scored 16 consecutive points to go up 29-2 with just under five minutes to play (who knew at the time that Washington State would finish the game with just 29 points?).

Oklahoma State (5-0) led 36-10 at halftime, holding Washington State to just 16 percent shooting (4 of 25) in the first 20 minutes. It didn't get much better in the second half, although the Cougars increased their shooting percentage to 26.7 percent.

Washington State coach Dick Bennett, who has won more than 470 games in 26 seasons as a collegiate head coach, was impressed with the Cowboys.

"I have not run into, in my 40 years (of coaching) that kind of defensive intensity for as long as they played it. It was most impressive," Bennett said.

John Lucas led the Cowboys with another impressive performance - scoring a game-high 19 points with five assists and three steals while not committing a single turnover in 30 minutes of play. Joey Graham, despite sitting out much of the foul trouble after picking up two fouls in the first two minutes of the game, finished with 18 points. Frans Steyn scored a career-high 15 points (all in the second half) and added four rebounds in just 14 minutes of play.

Bennett won't forget his trip to Stillwater for a while. He was asked how good are the Cowboys.

"It's hard for me to believe ... if they can maintain this on the road I don't see anybody that has that kind of intensity, combined with the athleticism and the ability to score," he said.

"I shouldn't say because we don't play everybody, but I remember the Stanford team from last year was ranked No. 1 and believe me they're weren't like this one. They play a different kind of game and they were good at it. But this pressure will just eat a lot of people alive if they can't spread them out and go to the basket."

The Cowboys will get a chance to find out just how good when they travel to New York City on Tuesday to face third-ranked Syracuse in the Jimmy V. Classic. Tipoff is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. (Central time), and the game can be seen on ESPN.

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