MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

OSU

January 10, 2013

Ford calls out freshman before Bedlam

STILLWATER — Just in time for the Bedlam rivalry game, Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford is calling out freshman Kamari Murphy to get back on his game.

Murphy inherited the job as the Cowboys’ starting power forward when Michael Cobbins broke his big toe at the start of the season, but his production has fallen off lately.

“He knows I’m not happy with him right now. He knows that,” Ford said before practice Thursday. “I’m not making any excuses for him. Freshman, senior, whatever, you’re expected to perform at a level, especially when you’ve shown you can play at that level for us. He’s done it at the beginning of the year.

“Freshmen have a little bit different mentality sometimes. They embrace success very quickly and can kind of get content a little bit. We’re aggressively talking to him about that, but he knows I’m not happy with the way he’s playing right now and he’s not overly excited about it either.”

And Murphy isn’t alone.

Ford’s squad has scuffled after a hot start, dropping out of the Top 25 after back-to-back losses last week against ranked opponents. He wasn’t much more pleased about a sloppy performance in a 63-45 victory against TCU on Wednesday night, with a season-worst 24 turnovers preventing the Cowboys (11-3, 1-1 Big 12) from doing more with a strong shooting performance.

“It was just disappointing for me. I was pretty upset,” Ford said.

Ford said he was on the fence about whether to drop Murphy from the starting lineup because he’s also seeking more consistency from Cobbins. Their next game is Saturday at Oklahoma (10-3, 1-0).

“That’s a possibility. I haven’t made any decisions yet,” Ford said. “But that’s always something players want to shoot for and coaches know that’s not a big deal. You couldn’t have told me that, though, when I played. So, I understand that. I really didn’t grasp that until I became a coach.”

Even though Murphy went scoreless in a loss to Gonzaga last week, that’s not what Ford is concerned about. The Cowboys’ three losses this season have come in games when they’ve been outrebounded by at least 10, and that’s where Murphy can be a factor.

He had been averaging 6.9 rebounds through the first nine games of the season, but has had just one rebound in three of the past five games.

“His game’s not based on scoring or based on anything like that,” Ford said. “What he can do, he can be consistent at. I can understand going into a shooting slump. But I don’t accept things that you can control that you’re not doing right now.”

Oklahoma State dominated rebounding 40-17 against TCU on Wednesday night. Ford said he thought the Cowboys were more focused on rebounding, but also that TCU didn’t crash the boards that hard.

“I don’t think we’ve reached the peak yet, but I feel like what we’ve been doing, we’ve been doing pretty well. Even without rebounding the ball, we still had big close games against top-ranked schools,” Markel Brown said. “I think we’re doing pretty good as of now, but it can get better.”

The Sooners have won eight straight on their home court in the series. Oklahoma State hasn’t won in Norman since 2004, when it went on to win the Big 12 championship and reach the Final Four.

“This game is never an easy game for us,” Brown said. “So, we’re going to have to be prepared no matter what.”

It’ll be the Bedlam debut for Murphy and fellow freshmen Phil Forte and Marcus Smart, the Cowboys’ second-leading scorer.

“I could feel the atmosphere from just sitting on my couch watching it. You could just feel how crazy and how loud and how everything was going,” Smart said. “It looked fun to play in. I’m very excited and can’t wait to play in it.”

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