Road Woes: Blazers Bury Cowboys

Eddie Sutton said before the season started that this edition of the Oklahoma State Cowboys would be the most inconsistent team he has coached in years. Sutton knows of which he speaks. The Cowboys played their best game of the young season in defeating 23rd-ranked Tennessee last week but followed it up Wednesday night with an atrocious performance – losing 90-71 to Alabama-Birmingham – in their first true road game of the season.

The loss – which appeared that it may approach the most lopsided loss (34 points) by an Eddie Sutton-coached team in his 16 years at OSU until the Cowboys scored the game's final nine points – was the third in the last five games for Oklahoma State. The Cowboys saw their record fall to 8-4, while UAB improved to 7-3.

"I thought we were back in Providence, (just like) in ‘95 when we got down 41-8, (and) tonight was the same way," said Cowboy assistant head coach Sean Sutton. "They had more energy from the start. They played with more passion. It was obvious to anyone who watched the game could see that their intensity was about five times higher than ours.

"I don't ever remember one of our teams giving up that many dunks and layups at the basket, (and) wide open shots. It was certainly one of the worst defensive efforts that one of our teams has ever played that I can remember, and certainly one of the most embarrassing games from start to finish," Sean Sutton continued.

The Cowboys had held their first 11 opponents this season below their scoring average, but the Blazers entered the game averaging 76 points and passed that mark with nearly seven minutes still on the clock. UAB shot a season-high 62 percent from the field, and got career-high scoring efforts from Marvett McDonald (27 points) and Wen Mukubu (16).

The Blazers used a 23-8 run over nearly a five-minute stretch in the first half to take a 20-point lead midway through the first half. McDonald hit four of his career-high seven three-pointers during that stretch, including a couple from NBA-type range. The UAB senior had a night he'll never forget as he was 10-of-14 from the field, including making seven of the 11 treys he attempted, for his 27 points.

As poorly as the Cowboys played in the first half they were down just 12 at halftime after turning the ball over 13 times. Mario Boggan's basket just minutes into the second half cut the lead to 48-38 but the Blazers then scored nine unanswered points and never looked back en route to their biggest win of the season.

"The two things we stressed going into the game was we had to take care of the basketball. They feed off turnovers, that's part of their system, and as a result (of our turnovers) they got a lot of dunks and a lot of layups, and wide open three-point shots," Sean Sutton said of the 24 turnovers that the Cowboys committed (leading to 31 points by the Blazers).

"We dug ourselves a hole. There were times when we got it down to 10 or 12 early in the second half, and we had an opportunity to get it to single digits, but they came back and scored nine straight points. You have to give them a lot of credit. They came to play. I thought the game was a lot more important to their guys than it was to our guys. That's disappointing."

OSU was playing for the first time without 6-9 sophomore Marcus Dove, who did not make the trip after suffering a fractured hip in the victory over Tennessee last week. Dove, although he averages just five points, has been the team's defensive stopper this season and the Cowboys could have used him against the red-hot McDonald.

"I think the staff realized, I'm not sure the players did, and I'm not sure some of the people who follow basketball realized, when you take a guy out who is really a glue-type player, take your best defender off the team, take a guy off who really understands things, doesn't turn the ball over, he has a calming affect, he gets guys settled down, he does the little things that go unnoticed ...I think it was great proof tonight how much we miss him at both ends of the court. We couldn't stop their best player and they kept getting wide open looks. But we're going to have to adjust without him. We're not going to have him for at least six weeks, and Torre (Johnson), Terrel (Harris) and Roderick (Flemings) and those guys are going to play better," Sean Sutton said.

Boggan and JamesOn Curry tied for team-high scoring honors with 16 points, while Torre Johnson added 15.

The Cowboys return to action Saturday afternoon when they host Arkansas State at Gallagher-Iba Arena in a game scheduled to tip off at 3 p.m.

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