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November 15, 2013

Final Thoughts Arkansas-Pine Bluff

The Cowboys got off to a shaky start against the Golden Lions in the first half, but the shooting of Phil Forte surged the Cowboys in the second half to another dominating performance by Oklahoma State. The Cowboys scored 51 in the 2nd half and went on to defeat the Golden Lions 97-63. In three games the Cowboys are averaging a winning margin of 47.3 points.

1. Phil Forte's hot streak in the 2nd half completely changed the momentum of the game. OSU did have a comfortable lead, but Arkansas-Pine Bluff continued to hang in the game and made it feel closer than it really was. Forte's three 3-pointers in a row midway through the 2nd half ignited the Cowboys offense and virtually sealed the game for OSU. Obviously Forte's shooting performance helped the Cowboys by putting points up on the board, but his performance also opened up other Cowboy players on the court. There were two instances where this was noticeable. One was a drive by Stevie Clark. Clark created space from his defender and began driving to the basket on the right side of the court. Forte's defender should have been there to pick up the help defense to stop the drive, but elected to stay on Forte to prevent Forte from getting a chance at another 3-point attempt. This would give Clark an easy jump shot for two. Another instance involved Forte having the ball on the left side of the perimeter. When Forte received the pass the entire vision of the Golden Lion defense shifted to him. Kamari Murphy flashed to the free throw line and received the pass from Forte and the Cowboys earned another easy two.

Forte may not be the star player on this team, but if he can come off the bench and perform like he did, he will add another threat the OSU offense that will open up more Cowboys for easy baskets. Forte was 6-7 from 3-point range and finished tied as the leading scorer with 22 points. Three games in and Phil Forte has been the leading scorer in all three games.

2. I've probably said this for the past three years, but I say it because I really do believe it's true. Markel Brown has improved a lot from last year. I think what is interesting about Brown is that we all become mesmerized by his incredible athleticism when he throws down a great dunk, that it sometimes will overshadow his overall performance. His shot continues to look better and better since his freshman year. Brown was the other leading scorer tied with Forte, and also finished with four assists and two blocks. I think most people know that Brown is a good basketball player that continues to improve, but I think it's also about time that he gets more national recognition for the rest of his game than just his dunking ability.

3. Hats off the Cowboy frontcourt. Le'Bryan Nash led the team In rebounds with 8, Leyton Hammonds only play 8 minutes, but managed to grab 7 rebounds, and Michael Cobbins and Murphy both finished with 6 rebounds each. The Cowboys as a team out rebounded Arkansas-Pine Bluff 40-31. Even though the Golden Lions were just a small step up in competition for the frontcourt, they did an excellent job at crashing the boards. DaVon Haynes and Daniel Broughton finished with just 19 points combined.

4. Tonight the Cowboys shot 51.7% from the field and 40.0% from 3-point range. I think it's almost time to start believing that this team is much improved scoring team. If they continue to shoot like this against Memphis on Tuesday, then I'll buy into it.

5. After being absent on the boards last game, Nash led the team with 8 rebounds and finished with 9 points. Although Nash may not have been on center stage in tonight, having performances where he's getting a double-double or close to a double-double, particularly in points and rebounds, will be very important piece to OSU success this season. He's not going to always have standout numbers like he did against Mississippi Valley State, but he's too good of an athlete and basketball player to only have one or two rebounds in a game.

6. Marcus Smart once again filled the stat line up, but there's was one stat that he filled up that I was not impressed by. Smart had 5 turnovers, a little under half of the team's total turnovers (11). Turnovers are going to happen, it is just a part of basketball, but some of Smart's turnovers raised an eyebrow once or twice. There were two instances when Smart had the ball and try to force a pass into the middle of the paint with 2-3 Arkansas -Pine Bluff players clogging up the middle. Smart is the best player on this team no question, but this is a talented team and he should almost never feel like he needs to force plays to happen.

On a personal preference, I did not like how the team as whole finished the game out. Yes, the Cowboys were up by 30-40 points in the closing 5 minutes, but that shouldn't excuse players to play sloppy. There were a lot of forced shots, fast breaks, and passes that just did not look good at all. Whether a team is up by one or up by forty, I like to see a strong performance for 40 minutes, and not 35-59 minutes.

7. I have been praising the offense a lot lately, but I need to give the defense some love too. Here is a few stats from the Cowboys:

30 DReb, 7 STL, 6 BLK, 18 Forced TO

Overall, an impressive performance by the defense tonight.

8. The most troubling stat of the night to me was the free throw shooting of the Cowboys. OSU only shot 65.9% (27-41) from the free throw line. Last year the Cowboys shot 74.6% from the free throw line and 73.9% the year before that. So far the Cowboys are shooting 68.8% from the free throw line. Poor free throw shooting needs to be a concern for any team. The Cowboys can and will play teams this season that they are evenly matched with. Those games will potentially come down to free throws, and if the Cowboys continue shoot free throws at a low percentage, they could find themselves on the wrong end of a close game.

9. Stevie Clark only played 13 minutes tonight, but finished with 6 points, 3 assists, and a rebound. It will be interesting to see how much playing time Clark will get against a very talented Memphis Tigers' backcourt Tuesday night.

The Cowboys move to 3-0 on the year. Next up: the game just about everyone has been waiting for. Oklahoma State will tip off against the 13th ranked Memphis Tigers Tuesday, November 19th at 7 PM. This will be the last of a four game home stretch for the Cowboys.

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