SCOUTING THE COWBOYS
OSU was hit with a double whammy when starter Michael Cobbins was lost for the year to an Achilles tendon injury and contributing point guard Stevie Clark was suspended and then arrested for marijuana possession. That has obviously caused some adjustment pains for the Cowboys, but most schools would be happy to have problems that resulted in a 13-2 record, an RPI of 15 and a national ranking.
OSU is led by All-American Marcus Smart (So., G, 6-4), and there aren't many holes in his game. He scores, he rebounds, he passes and defends. He leads the team in scoring, steals, assists, and free throw attempts, and quite simply fills up the box score every time out. If he has one hole, it's that he can be a bit loose with the ball, as he has 40 turnovers in fewer than 30 minutes of action per game. However, as he sees the rock on almost every possession, that's not a huge negative.
Smart gets much of the attention, which causes his "supporting" cast to be overlooked, but there's a ton of talent there as well. Markell Brown (Sr., G, 6-3) nearly matches Smart's socring with 17.1 points per game, and shoots the ball extremely well, making 50% overall and 35% from distance. LeBryan Nash (Jr., F, 6-7), a highly-touted yet inconsistent freshman two years ago, has become more consistent, averaging 13.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, while Brian Williams (Jr., F, 6-5) rounds out the four starters who have been on the court for the opening tip in every game this season. He's adding nearly nine points and four rebounds per contest.
Taking Coggins place in the starting lineup has been Kamari Murphy, and although he hasn't matched Cobbins' productivity, he has been a decent fill-in. The 6-8 sophomore post player is concentrating on the boards and defense, where he has collected almost six rebounds per game and rejected 21 shots.
Off the bench, Phil Forte is a sniper who kills teams from beyond the arc. He's hitting almost 49% of his tries (41-84) and simply cannot be left alone on the offensive end. He's the beneficiary of many drive and dish plays, and he's also deadly from the free throw line (46-51). The 5-11 sophomore also protects the ball -- he has just six turnovers in 329 minutes of court time.
West Virginia has to play very sound team defense if it's to get an upset win over the visiting Cowboys.
4:00 PM E
Morgantown, W. Va.
OSU 13-2, 1-1
Big 12 Network
WVU - 70
OSU - 15
So far this year, WVU has ranged from adequate to very bad on defense. The effort is there, but the consistency and diligence required to play defense for the duration of the shot clock has not. There has been confusion at times in executing rotations and switching between defensive schemes, and all of those things are going to be required to keep WVU in the game.
The task is made more difficult by the fact that OSU shoots the ball very well across the board. As a team, they make 49.4% overall, and their four major starters range from 70% (Smart) to 81% (Brown) from the line. West Virginia will not only have to cover very well, it will likely have to play man for most of the game and avoid fouling the Cowboys, who have shot 144 more free throws than their opponents.
Offensively, WVU has to put pressure on Oklahoma State's starters and get them in foul trouble. The Pokes aren't a deep team, so if it can get into the OSU bench West Virginia may have a chance to do some damage. It needs to force players like Leyton Hammons and Marek Soucek into more minutes, and to do so it can't settle for jump shots on the perimeter all the time.
West Virginia matches up pretty well with the Cowboys from the floor - both schools average right at 28 field goals per game. It's at the line where OSU holds a significant edge. They take nine more and make seven more per game than the Mountaineers, which makes WVU's defense a key component of the match-up. If it puts OSU on the line 30 times in this game, it's going to be very difficult to make up those points elsewhere.
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OSU leads the league in steals, and has swiped the ball ten or more times in seven games this year.
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West Virginia has five players shooting 40% or better from three-point range, and none of them are named Terry Henderson. While there has been much made of Henderson's shooting "slump" it's not as if he's been terrible. He's still making 45% from the field and 33% overall. One of our favorite maxims here is that 33% shooting from three-point range yields the same number of points as 50% shooting from two, so Henderson isn't underwater by any means. And the smart money says that by the end of the year, his shooting percentages will be higher than they are now.
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WVU's Brandon Watkins and Nathan Adrian each have 11 blocked shots this year. That total would put the pair no better than a tie for fifth on OSU's team, which has rejected 95 shots in 15 games. The Cowboys have six players with double digit blocks on the season.
This massive total points out the way OSU challenges shots, and points out that they don't make life easy for opposing shooters. Even with Cobbins out for the year (he had 19 in 13 games), the Cowboys will still change and deflect shots. Without Cobbins in the back, they might not be quite as effective overall, but getting clean looks is still going to be tough. WVU, which has worked hard on shot fakes and getting defenders off their feet, will find an interesting match-up here. If the Mountaineers can use up fakes and relocate for open shots, it could throw the Pokes out of their defensive rhythm.