Curry, Cowboys Back On Track

STILLWATER – What slump? That's the question the Mercer Bears were asking themselves Sunday afternoon as Oklahoma State sophomore guard JamesOn Curry was scoring a career-high 30 points inside Gallagher-Iba Arena to help the Cowboys break a two-game losing streak with a 97-61 victory over the Bears.

The 6-foot-3 guard had been expected to provide the early season scoring for the Cowboys since he was the only returning starter from last season's squad which won 26 games and advanced to the Sweet 16. But Curry has struggled throughout the first month of the season, shooting just 36 percent from the field and hitting just 60.9 percent (14 of 23) from the free-throw line. He had also committed 26 turnovers in those first nine games. It was not was head coach Eddie Sutton had hoped from the player he expected to lead this season's squad.

Curry had missed all four of his three-point attempts in the Cowboys' back-to-back losses to Gonzaga and Northwestern State last week. But he came out shooting Sunday afternoon, drilling a three-pointer just 1:39 into the game, and never looked back en route to the 30-point performance (his previous career high was 22 points a year ago as a freshman).

"Randy Rutherford (the former Cowboy sharpshooter who is now assistant strength and conditioning coach) gave me some tapes of when he played and I watched those tapes. I just went out and played," said Curry, who was 11-of-15 from the field, including 6-of-8 from behind the three-point line, and also added 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals. "I came into the gym a lot more this week. A lot of the shots I was shooting before were off the dribble and I was forcing shots. As the season goes on I'll shoot better and better."

Eddie Sutton said, "JamesOn played like we expect him to play. He is not going to shoot that well every night, but he shot better than what he has been shooting the ball. He worked really hard this week on his shooting and when you are not shooting the ball as well, that is one thing you do. You get back into the gym and find your groove and just put a lot of shots up. He did that, and it certainly paid off today.

"We do not expect him to get 30 points, but I thought he would get 16 to 20 points every game. Had he done that against Northwestern State, we would have won that game and maybe would have won the Gonzaga game. If he shoots like that, and our defense continues to get better and we do a better job in rebounding, in time, we are going to be able to play with a lot of people."

Curry was one of six Cowboys to finish in double figures as the Cowboys found the perfect remedy for a two-game losing streak in Mercer, which was playing without leading scorer Jacob Skogen (21.3 points per game) who does not play on Sundays because of his religious convictions. The Bears saw their record drop to 1-4 with the loss.

Marcus Dove contributed 14 points (on 5-of-5 shooting from the field), 6 rebounds and 3 steals for the Cowboys. Also making significant contributions were Mario Boggan with 11 points, Roderick Flemings with 11 points (including one stretch of 1:31 in the second half when he scored nine consecutive points), Byron Eaton with 10 points, a career-high 11 assists and 2 steals in just 27 minutes, and Terrel Harris with 10 points (including an highlight reel alley-oop dunk from Eaton).

The Cowboys, now 7-3, led by as many as 15 midway through the first half before the Bears trimmed the lead to 43-32 at halftime. But OSU used an 11-1 run to open the second half – led by Curry who buried a three-pointer and then had a breakaway lay-up off an Eaton steal – to erase any doubt who would win this one.

OSU shot 59.3 percent from the field (second this season only to its 60.4 percent effort against Detroit inside Gallagher-Iba Arena on Nov. 22), and forced the Bears into 25 turnovers (13 of which were steals by the Cowboys).

"They're an awfully good team, especially when Curry is playing at that level. When he's doing that, they're awfully difficult to beat," said Mercer head coach Mark Slonaker. "We were probably the elixir for his ills. We got him cured. He's a great player. I don't know the answer to why he's struggled, but he didn't struggle (against us). He definitely makes them a better basketball team."

"I thought we played much better today," Eddie Sutton said. "Of course, the competition was not as tough as some of the teams we have played."

The Cowboys return to action Thursday night against undefeated Tennessee, which improved to 6-0 with an impressive 95-78 victory over sixth-ranked Texas on Saturday afternoon on the Longhorns home court in Austin. The Cowboys and Volunteers, led by first-year coach Bruce Pearl, tip-off at 5 p.m. at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City in the first of two games in the O'Reilly All-College Classic. Oklahoma takes on West Virginia in the second game.

GoPokes Top Stories