Tennessee Calls OSU Tough & Physical

OKLAHOMA CITY - OSU's JamesOn Curry rushed down the floor looking like he would drive all the way on the transition play but instead dribbled the ball back out on the wing and then lobbed a pass inside for 6-7 Mario Boggan. Boggan took the ball and stepped to the basket before Tennessee's Andre Patterson came flying in and chopped Boggan on the shoulder and high on the arm sending him sprawling to the floor. Boggan popped up and looked like he was ready to chop Patterson at the neck.

That was just an example of how physical the Cowboys' 89-73 win over the 23rd-ranked Vols turned out to be. It was physical inside, on the perimeter, and in the backcourt where Tennessee executed their man full court press. Everywhere - and at anytime - there was contact breaking out. On the final shot of the first half the Cowboys Marcus Dove went up for a harmless rebound only to have his legs cut out from under him and fall backwards in a crashing heap. Dove was done for the night. Afterwards, head coach Eddie Sutton described the 6-9 Dove as barely able to walk and said he would have his back x-rayed as soon as the team returned to Stillwater later that night.

It wasn't always clean and there were several times where Tennessee players simply reached out and grabbed or blatantly bumped into a Cowboy. The Vols weren't always smart about it, being called for 24 fouls to the Cowboys 15, but it seemed like they had a point to prove.

"Mark Few (Gonzaga coach) said we were the most physical team that he'd ever played, so Tennessee seemed to feel that they had to bow up to play to our level," said Cowboy David Monds, who had 15 points and a game-high 11 rebounds in being named the Most Valuable Player in the contest. "Sometimes their physical play wasn't I'll say so physical. We just see it as a challenge when teams are trying to bow up at you and play hard and knock you around. That says something when teams feel they have to do that."

The Cowboys outshot the Vols( 63 percent to 43 percent) and, more importantly, outrebounded Tennessee 38 to 25. The Cowboys also outscored Tennessee with roughly 40 points in the paint to 26 for the Vols. Tennessee first-year head coach Bruce Pearl had to admit that his team was outphysicaled.

"They were just too big, too strong, and too physical," said Pearl, who suffered his first loss at Tennessee coach. "Their team defense is really good and their team rebounding is outstanding. They just didn't give us many second shots. Oklahoma State is much more physical and deeper (than Texas)."

Tennessee had hammered Texas in Austin last Saturday 95-78, so who better to compare than Pearl. Sutton wasn't quite ready to proclaim his Cowboys better than the Texas team that coaches and the media made the Big 12 preseason pick to win the league.

"I don't think you can downgrade Texas, that's not Coach (Rick) Barnes team playing defense," said the politically correct Cowboy head coach. "They are just not playing well right now. I accept the compliment but they are certainly not as tough as a lot of teams we've had at Oklahoma State."

However, the Cowboys did grow up and improve, and in doing so became just the third team in the league to beat a Top 25 ranked opponent. Texas and Iowa State both have beaten now 25th-ranked Iowa.

"I thought we gained a lot of confidence the way we played because Tennessee is a pretty good ballclub," Sutton said. "I told the team this is like an NCAA Tournament game. I think we should have won two out of our three losses because if JamesOn shoots a lick against Gonzaga or against Northwestern State I think we win those games. Except for the first six minutes of the second half I thought this was the best we've played in a full game this season. I think we grew some today when they came back and pulled within one point and we played it out."

The Cowboys now get two days off for Christmas and will return to Stillwater on Sunday to start preparing for a road trip to UAB next Wednesday that will also be nationally televised (ESPN). With or without Dove, this is no time to back track. This team is moving forward in a srong, phsyical way, and keeping that going could pay major rewards in the New Year and the Big 12. All of a sudden the Cowboys are looking as good as anybody in the conference.

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