Cowboys Win Season Opener Without Eddie

Maybe it was best that Eddie Sutton wasn't around to see the Oklahoma State basketball team's season opener Friday night. Sutton, who has been battling chronic back pain for the past year, was forced to watch from home OSU's season-opening 74-65 victory over Texas-Arlington after doctor's advised him to rest. Sutton certainly wasn't happy with the Cowboys' performance against a team which has already lost to Miami (Fla.) and UNC-Greensboro this season.

"I'm sure he is not very happy," head coach designate Sean Sutton said of his dad who reportedly did not attend any practices this past week because of his back pain.

The Cowboys shot just 44.3 percent from the field, turned the ball over 19 times and were outrebounded 37-34 by the smaller Mavericks, but still managed to win thanks to the play of junior college transfer Mario Boggan and sophomore JamesOn Curry. Boggan, playing his first game as a Cowboy, finished with 18 points, 7 rebounds and 2 steals in 29 minutes of play. Curry, the lone returning starter from last season's Sweet 16 team, contributed 18 points, 8 assists and 3 steals.

"Defensively, I can't recall a team that's got that many easy shots at the basket, that many uncontested shots where guys were just standing there watching them shoot the ball," Sean Sutton said. "We're happy we won the game. We expected a lot better performance than what we got tonight. I think that's what's disappointing is we had a good week of practice, and really worked hard on our half-court defense. Tonight we just had so many breakdowns, and as a result we didn't look very good. But that's the way this team is going to be for a while with so many new guys. There's moments where they look pretty good; there's moments where you just wonder how many games they're going to win."

Texas-Arlington, which scored just 49 points against North Carolina-Wilmington three nights earlier, made 8 of its first 9 shots and shot 53.3 percent from the field in the first half. The Mavericks scored 26 of their 35 points in the first half from inside the paint.

"Right now our guys are not committed to the defensive end and what it takes to win at this level<" Sean Sutton said. "They missed 36 or 37 shots, when you count the field goals and you count the free throws and they got 18 of them back, and that is not going to get it done against quality teams.

"This team out to be a really good defensive team with the athletes and the quickness. It's got to be an attitude. Right now, as much time as we've spent this week going back and working on our half-court defense, we just don't have that mindset right now that we're going to shut people down. They better get it fast or it's going to be a long week."

Friday night's game was the first of five games the Cowboys are scheduled to play in eight days to open the season. They play Jackson State (Sunday afternoon) and Detroit (Tuesday night) at Gallagher-Iba Arena, and then travel to Las Vegas for games Friday (vs. Texas Christian) and Saturday (against either Boston College or Drake).

"I was surprised and disappointed that we did not play better tonight because I thought this week in practice we had good intensity," Sean Sutton said. "Guys were really looking forward to this game tonight. Their concentration and effort level has been good all week long. I think they played hard. I don't think you can fault the effort. They just didn't play as smart as we need to, but it may be that way for a while.

"As a coaching staff you have to be demanding and you have to put expectations on your team, in terms of what you expect, what has to be accomplished to win games, but you also have to be a little patient in that this is not last year's team. This is not the team before that you get accustomed, and maybe a little spoiled as a coach that you've got so many veteran players and they know the right things to do. With this team it's going to be a learning process. The opportunity is there this week to play a lot of games, and if we play well we'll have a chance to win them all. If we play like we did tonight, we may lose them all."

Sean Sutton said he expects his dad to be back on the sideline for Sunday afternoon's 3 p.m. tip-off against Jackson State.

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