Penn, Gulley Show Improvement

STILLWATER - Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford welcomed Dale Brown, his former college roommate at Kentucky, to Gallagher-Iba Arena on Tuesday night. But instead of his team being as giving as the Cowboys were on Saturday night in the first exhibition with 27 turnovers, they were more stingy with two young guards Ray Penn and Fred Gulley the ring leaders as the Pokes defeated Dillard 97-55.

Overall, it was better a performance by the Cowboys. Gone were the 27 turnovers and in their place the Cowboys had just 15 turnovers, forced 28 turnovers by the visitors, shot 54.7 percent from the field, held Dillard to 35.7 percent shooting, and out-rebounded the Blue Devils 40-31.

"I was a lot more patient this time and I think the first game (UCO) was good for me to see at this level the pressure that they bring," said Penn of his improvement from Saturday. "I didn't want to make the same mistakes twice, that I made in the first game."

"Tonight was a step forward. We still have a lot of steps to climb, but it was definitely better than the other night," said Ford. "One thing I told Ray and Fred after that first exhibition game was the only way that becomes a positive was if they learned from it. If you learn from it then it can help you.

"We were all embarrassed. There is no better way than to learn from adversity and we worked hard with these guys on handling pressure," Ford continued.

Before the game the Cowboys assistant athletic director for basketball Joey Biggs was checking the crowd for fans with eligibility. "We may need to play some of these folks," joked Biggs citing the Cowboys health issues.

Missing Tuesday night were guards Nick Sidorakis and Keiton Page. Also on the IR was post Teeng Akol. Then little did some know, but team leader Obi Muonelo was walking wounded. Muonelo started but played less than usual finishing with a solid seven points and six assists in 25 minutes. In the end no fans out of the stands were needed.

Penn started the game at the point and the Fort Bend, Texas product heated it up early with a three-pointer from the left wing that gave OSU its first lead at 7-6 and triggered a 19-to-2 scoring run.

Gulley followed Penn as on the next trip down the floor, and just after entering the game, he nailed a three from just left of the arch at the top of the key to make it 10-6. Gulley later added a deuce from the left elbow and showed a really strong shooting form as the Cowboys forged a 47-25 first half lead. The early makes helped, helped a lot.

"It helps a lot, you know," said Penn of that three-pointer from the left wing. "Once you hit that first shot then you kind of get in that groove. You are focused but when you hit that you are really tuned in."

"No question it helps. It helps your confidence," said Ford. "It gets you in the game early. You wish they'd be in the game no matter what, but it helps."

"I thought last game we didn't come out with enough intensity," said James Anderson thinking the younger players hitting early picked that up. "I thought this game everybody stepped up the intensity and that is what we need because once Big 12 play starts there aren't going to be any teams like this. They all get better.

"We know it is early and we don't want to be great right now. We are still getting a feel for each other. We want to get better and I think we did that," Anderson added.

Another strong edition, no pun intended, is 6-8, 235-pound Matt Pilgrim. Pilgrim showed an inside-outside game that worked and some patience with his younger teammates as Pilgrim was set for an alley oop in the first half only to have Penn mis-connect with a low pass as he misread the situation and where Pilgrim was heading.

The taller Pilgrim just reached out and gave Penn five and then put his arm around the 5-9 guard as the two headed down the floor to play defense. A few seconds later another steal by the Cowboys finished with a Penn three-pointer for a 26-10 lead. Pilgrim was more than impressive inside getting his second double-double in two exhibitions as he had 18 points and 12 rebounds.

"Monster, he tries to get every rebound, and if not get it then get a hand on it," said Anderson of the powerful Pilgrim. "He is big and physical and that is something our team was really missing from last year. He catches on to everything fast. He's been playing college ball for two or three years, so he is ready."

It was a solid performance for the younger Cowboys and the new Cowboys in just their second show in Gallagher-Iba, but the "man" is still James Anderson. Anderson, along with Muonelo, were on the floor at times with four freshmen. He finished with 28 points and five rebounds.

"He's shown glimpses of his quickness and glimpses of his talent, but he has been a little under the weather," said Ford. "There is no question he is the man, but we have to get him full strength."

The night ended on a really good team building note as walkon Garrett Thomas of Edmond came in and got a stea,l and on the other end of the floor the ball found him and he nailed an open three-pointer.

"It was great to see and right now he is full go in practice and has played good in practice and I have told him that I am not afraid to play him," said Ford of how much action Thomas has seen in practice with all the injuries. "I told him that I am not afraid to play him."

"That got everybody hyped." said Anderson. "He works hard every day to make everybody better and never really gets the playing time. We were hoping he would get a shot and he did and he hit it."

The Cowboys will open the season for real in a Saturday basketball-football doubleheader. The Pokes will host Seattle at 1:30 p.m. leading into the Oklahoma State football contest with Texas Tech next door at Boone Pickens Stadium at 7 p.m.

Ford said Seattle is a loaded team with an NBA center prospect that returns nearly everybody from a 22-win team. Ford said he hopes to get Page back and that they would find out more after a day off on Wednesday and then see what he can do in practice on Thursday and Friday.

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