Tigers caged by Pokes

Defense is Eddie Sutton's game. And, in the third-straight Big 12 matchup, the Cowboys played stifling defense. Mizzou came into Stillwater averaging nearly 80 points per game. The Cowboys, however, had dreams of different numbers, and defeated the Tigers by a 20-point margin.

Coming into the contest with Missouri, the Oklahoma State Cowboys' game plan was to attack the scoreboard right away.

Did they ever.

The No. 24 Cowboys (14-1, 3-0 Big 12) were able to take advantage of Missouri's depleted roster, defeating the No. 11 Tigers (10-3, 1-1), 76-56.

After jumping out to a 14-2 lead, OSU never looked back. The Tigers didn't score their second field goal until nearly five minutes had been drained off the clock.

OSU held Missouri to 10-of-29 shooting in the first half, including 0-for-6 from beyond the arc.

"Coach's ultimate goal -- defense before anything," OSU guard Cheyne Gadson said of his team's defensive effort. "Not a day to mess with us today."

If losing back-up point guard Josh Kroenke to tendonitis wasn't enough adversity for Missouri, it faced another obstacle Friday. Starting point guard and second-leading scorer for the Tigers, Ricky Clemons, was suspended from the team. Clemons, 22, was charged with second-degree domestic assault stemming from a Thursday night disturbance in Columbia.

"Obviously we were short on personnel, but I'm not using that as any excuse,'" coach Quin Snyder said. "I thought Oklahoma State played terrific. When they jump on you like that with their shots, and you have some guys in unfamiliar territory to begin with, we were looking uphill the whole game."

The Cowboys led by as many as 24 points in the first half, and they took a commanding 43-21 showing into the locker room at halftime.

"You could tell they didn't have their starting point guard out there," OSU guard Victor Williams said. "Clemons is a great player and that definitely hurt them on the offensive end and defensive end. Taking no credit away from our defensive effort -- if he was out there -- I think we would have attacked him the same way."

The Cowboys were led on the floor by Williams, who finished the game with a season-high 24 points.

"Knocked down a couple shots, kinda got myself going," Williams said. "Just one of those nights, I guess. I have some of those nights sometimes where, you know, I just feel that I can just about make anything.

"I think that was one of those nights."

Largely because of its stellar defensive skills, OSU now owns the longest winning streak in the nation, and sits atop the Big 12 Conference standings.

"I thought the first 30 minutes was probably the best basketball we have played this season," OSU coach Eddie Sutton said. "Our defense continued to be excellent and we executed offensively much better, took care of the basketball and we were able to hit some good shots."

OSU's Melvin Sanders received the Cowboys' top defensive assignment of the day, and he was able to hold Missouri's Ricky Paulding to 10 points, including only one trey.

"Going into this season, our motto was just defense, defense, defense," Williams said. "Sometimes we'll go three hours in practice and never be on the offensive end. That's just the way our mindset is – scoring's going to come and go, but we've got to be able to stop the other team."

Sanders' quick feet were able to maintain a hot-handed Paulding, who entered the contest averaging 17.7 points per game.

Williams said when it is announced who Sanders will be shadowing in an upcoming game, it should put a scare into the opposing player.

"I would be frightened myself – I am glad he is on my team," Williams said.

Sutton echoed the same praises for his defensive specialist.

"I've been fortunate through the years to have players we call ‘stoppers'," Sutton said. "I think the two best players We've had since I've been here, in that capacity, would be Corey Williams and Melvin."

Apart from keeping tabs on Paulding all afternoon, Sanders tacked on 15 points for the Cowboys, and pulled down seven boards.

Guard Tony Allen, who has been an offensive asset to OSU since arriving from Wabash Valley Community College, only put up seven points against the Tigers, but dished out seven assists.

In OSU's last three outings against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Texas A&M and Oklahoma, Allen scored 60 points collectively.

Williams said that Allen, last week's Big 12 Rookie of the Week, didn't necessarily have a bad game, but it was merely someone else's turn to step up for the team offensively.

"We have an arsenal of guys that can come out and play on any given night," Williams said. "He just helped us out in other ways tonight."

In the second half, OSU took its biggest lead of the day. Until an Aurthur Johnson jumper with 7:50 remaining in the game, OSU was up by 35.

The attitude and the demeanor of the team seems to be polar opposite of what OSU displayed last season at this time. Gadson said that the team is back, and finally in the groove that has put Cowboy basketball on the map in recent years.

"In practice, we just come to everyday with a positive attitude," Gadson said. "Last year, I would say somewhat we fell apart. And this year, we just all know, especially the seniors, what we need to do to keep us going and keep us winning is to stay together and stay positive."

With a 48-46 win over No. 5 Oklahoma on Monday night, followed by the 20-point thrashing of No. 11 Missouri, OSU looks to start moving upward in the polls.

However, the Cowboys maintain that their focus shifts from game-to-game, and each opponent demands something new.

"There's not a player on this team that gets on the computer every day and checks to see where we rank," Gadson said. "We gotta do what we gotta do."


Brandi Ball can be reached via e-mail at gostate4403@hotmail.com


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