Oklahoma State Personnel:Sean Sutton's team used the same starting five for the first 7 games, but a recent injury to Marcus Dove caused a small shake-up in the lineup. The two main weapons as starters are 6-3 JR G JamesOn Curry and 6-7 SR PF Mario Boggan. Both players are capable of dropping 25 points on any given night.
SU fans will remember Curry's outstanding perimeter shooting against the 2-3 zone in an early season loss in the '04-05 season. They may also remember Boggan as a former teammate of Billy Edelin on the 2000-01 Oak Hill National Championship squad. Boggan is the leading returning scorer in the Big 12 and seems to have finally found a home after struggling to crack the rotation at Florida (before transfering to Ok. St.).
Joining Boggan and Curry in the starting lineup will be Terrel Harris, David Monds, and Byron Eaton. This is a very talented fivesome. Harris has been terrific from beyond the arc this year, shooting an ungodly 58%.
Monds is a 6-8 SR C cut from the same mold as the classic Eddie Sutton power player - he's mobile, athletic and can defend and finish. He's not likely to go off for 20 points, but he will provide a stern challenge for SU's interior defenders. In many ways, he is very similar to former Cowboy Ivan McFarlin.
Eaton, the last member of the starting lineup, was a McDonald's All-American two years ago. He is one of the nation's strongest guards at 5-11, 215 lbs, but seems to have lost a step of quickness since his high school days.
The Oklahoma State bench may be a bit sparse if Marcus Dove cannot play. Dove is recovering from a knee injury and is listed as day-to-day. He is the Cowboys' best perimeter defender at 6-9 and would likely draw the assignment of guarding Demetris Nichols.
The main weapon off the bench is Obi Muonelo, a 6-5 FR guard from Sante Fe High School in Edmond, Oklahoma. Muonelo came out of nowhere to post a huge senior season last year and earned an invite to the Jordan Classic, where he competed against current SU freshmen Paul Harris and Mike Jones.
Muonelo has been superb in the early going, becoming the first Oklahoma State freshman to score in double figures in his first nine games. He enters the game against SU at 12.4 ppg, and has a very versatile and well rounded game. He can overpower smaller players on drives to the basket and will occasionally hit the deep shot as well. He hauls in almost 5 boards a game, and averages nearly 3 assists per contest as well.
Kenny Cooper, a 6-10 C, is the only other player who sees significant minutes. Cooper is essentially a role player whose primary job is to give Boggan and Monds a rest.
Game Outlook:In may ways, Oklahoma State is a better matchup for Syracuse than Wichita State was. The Cowboys like to get up and down the court, score in transition, and use their athleticism. They aren't as patient as the Shockers, and they don't value the basketball nearly as much (~16.5 turnovers per contest).
Also, with Dove questionable for this game, Oklahoma State may be playing with a very short bench, which SU may be able to exploit. Late in the game on Saturday, the Orange were able to wear down the Shockers by constantly shuttling in fresh players. Sutton may be forced to go with essentially six players, which would be to SU's benefit.
The following three points will be the keys to this game:
1) Don't get off to a slow start! The Orange have been dreadful in early game situations for about 5 straight games now. Coming back from 10-15 points down hasn't been too difficult against teams like Northeastern, Charlotte, and Canisius, but better teams like Oklahoma State will be able to hold off SU rallys. It seems that the Orange play better when superfrosh Paul Harris is in the game, so the sooner he sees the floor, the better. What good does it do to have a player as talented as Harris watch his team fall into an early 10 point deficit?
2) Defend the perimeter. Curry, Harris, and Muonelo can all make the three point shot. Syracuse's zone defense simply did not respond to Wichita State's three point shooters on Saturday, and Oklahoma State can easily match that team for perimeter talent. The Cowboys are shooting nearly 38% from beyond the arc as a team. If the zone defense isn't working, it's time to try some man to man.
3) Generate offense whatever way possible.This most likely means GET OUT AND RUN. The Orange halfcourt offense has been mediocre at best this year, but the team has had success in transition. Josh Wright is making better decisions on the break and Harris, Nichols, and Roberts all possess very good open court speed. The key here is to own the defensive glass. Without rebounds or turnovers, the 'Cuse will be stuck in a halfcourt game, which they proven to struggle with.
The other key on offense will be to get Eric Devendorf and Demetris Nichols on track as early as possible. Devendorf has managed only 15 points in the last two games and needs to resume the scoring touch that he showed earlier in the year. Nichols needs to completely forget about the last game and just go out and play. The last time he played on the Garden floor, he was an integral part in Syracuse's second straight Big East Tournament Championship. Let's hope he plays more like that than how he played against the Shockers on Saturday.