Inside Cowboy Basketball

Travis Ford's team is 10-1 but the second-year Oklahoma State head coach is not satisfied and knows the Cowboys must get better as Big 12 play looms right around the corner. OSU has three non-conference games remaining before opening Big 12 play on Saturday, Jan. 9, against Texas Tech. Read more for a closer look at the Cowboys.

Travis Ford admits he did not expect Oklahoma State to start 10-1 while attempting to blend several newcomers into the rotation and fielding one of the youngest teams in the Big 12.

But the Cowboys coach also does his best to temper any enthusiasm over the encouraging getaway.

"We're excited, but we're not happy," he said. "We can't get overjoyed. ... We're still waiting to put a game together, believe it or not."

The most impressive win for the Cowboys early on was a 71-70 nail-biter at Stanford. That road win was needed after they fell 86-65 at Tulsa in the only other true road game on the nonconference portion of the schedule.

The Oklahoma State defense is probably ahead of its offense, though the Cowboys feature a standout in James Anderson that every opponent tries to contain but rarely succeeds. Through the 10-1 start, Anderson led the Big 12 in scoring with a 21.8-point average.

Relying on Anderson can have its disadvantages if he goes cold, but the 6-foot-6 junior knows his role and often gives Oklahoma State the offensive lift it needs.

"Sometimes I think I need to step up," Anderson said. "When I get the ball, I try to at least get to the line and get a couple of free throws, just do something to get the momentum going our way."

--Oklahoma State is capable of showing a variety of defenses, something that helped the Cowboys in their 77-62 victory against La Salle on Dec. 21. Using both man-to-man and zone, while switching assignments for its defenders, OSU limited La Salle to 18-of-54 shooting, and the Explorers missed all but two of their first 20 attempts

--Two statistical categories where Oklahoma State needs to improve with Big 12 play looming are assists (11.7) and steals (5.1). Both averages ranked last in the conference through Dec. 26.

JANUARY AT A GLANCE: A game on a neutral floor in Uncasville, Conn., against Rhode Island remains as the last opportunity for Oklahoma State to play away from home in nonconference. A Jan. 5 game against Coppin State closes the nonconference schedule before Oklahoma State begins conference play against the Big 12's most pleasant surprise in the early going, Texas Tech. Two wings with similar games, the Cowboys' James Anderson and the Red Raiders' Mike Singletary, make that an interesting matchup.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "James is one of the best players in the country. Everybody's game plan coming in is to try and stop him. And he still gets 28." -- Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford, noting the scoring total James Anderson managed in a Dec. 21 win against La Salle.

SEASON RECAP: The game that sticks out for Oklahoma State remains the lone defeat in the first 11 tries. A lopsided 86-65 loss at Tulsa points to the possibility the Cowboys could struggle on the road, though they did rebound to win 71-70 at Stanford in their only other nonconference road game. G James Anderson asserted himself as the Big 12's leading scorer through Christmas, though Oklahoma State must develop consistent help to alleviate any pressure the 6-foot-6 junior may feel when conference coaches begin devising defenses to limit his scoring.

PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Marshall Moses, G Obi Muenelo, G Keiton Page, G James Anderson, G Ray Penn. Key Subs -- G Fred Gulley, F Matt Pilgrim, F Roger Franklin.

Oklahoma State 81, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 66
Oklahoma State 71, Stanford 70
Oklahoma State 77, La Salle 62

vs. Pacific, Tuesday, Dec. 29
vs. Rhode Island, at Uncasville, Conn., Saturday, Jan. 2
vs. Coppin State, Tuesday, Jan. 5
vs. Texas Tech, Saturday, Jan. 9
at Oklahoma, Monday, Jan. 11

IN FOCUS: Pacific missed a potential buzzer-beater and fell 54-53 at Santa Clara on Dec. 21. The Tigers, perennial contenders in the Big West, made just three of eight free throws. The game against Rhode Island will be on a neutral floor, the Mohegan Sun Arena. It figures to be the most difficult test for Oklahoma State prior to Big 12 play. Texas Tech is off to a surprisingly hot start but is still vulnerable on the road, while Oklahoma struggled in nonconference play and misses Blake Griffin. ROSTER REPORT:
--G James Anderson led Oklahoma State in scoring in eight of the first 11 games and boosted his streak of double-digit outputs to 25 with 28 points against La Salle.

--F Marshall Moses scored in double figures for the fifth time in six games with 18 points against La Salle. Moses added eight rebounds.

--G Keiton Page had 13 assists against one turnover during a six-game stretch capped by the La Salle win. That was the 10th consecutive game in which he had one turnover or none.

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