By Jason Elmquist
CNHI News Service
STILLWATER – Oklahoma State had to do the little things Saturday to pull away for a 62-42 victory over Missouri State at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
The No. 23 Cowboys had a cold shooting night, which included their worst 3-point shooting game since the Virginia Tech loss, going 4-for-23 (17.4 percent) from long range. Instead, OSU relied on its defense and rebounding to improve to 7-1 on the year.
The Pokes held the Bears to an abysmal 21.4 percent shooting in the first half to jump out to a 34-13 lead at the half. But the Bears bounced back in the second half, which caught the Cowboys off guard, and were able to knock down 12 of 26 shots (46.2 percent).
“From our perspective, in the first half, they were missing a lot of shots. In the second half, they came out shooting a lot again, and give them credit for hitting more of those shots,” OSU forward Michael Cobbins said. “We have to change that though and not let that happen again.”
Part of the rally came with freshman phenom Marcus Smart on the bench. Smart had picked up his fourth foul with 15 minutes left in the contest, relegating him to the bench for 14 minutes until coming in for the final 1:28. He finished with career-low 7 points and went without an assist for the first time this year.
“Anytime Marcus gets into foul trouble that early it’s not good for our team, except for when Kirby Gardner plays like he did today,” OSU coach Travis Ford said. “Kirby really stabilized us, played great defense, ran the offense and really gave us a spark.”
The rebounding dominance allowed OSU to overcome that spurt, however. Oklahoma State outrebounded Missouri State 46-22 and held a 15-6 advantage on the offensive boards. The Cowboys got 12 second-chance points thanks to the advantage, while the Bears had zero.
The increasing return of Cobbins helped the Cowboys in the post. The redshirt sophomore forward, who was playing in his third game since being sidelined for a month with a toe injury, had 10 points on 3 of 3 shooting from the field and 4 for 4 from the free throw line. He also hauled in 8 rebounds, including a game-high 4 offensive boards.
“It felt pretty good. Coach trusted me with some minutes, and I came through for him,” Cobbins said. “It’s definitely feeling like I’m getting back in the rhythm of things.”
Cobbins played the most minutes of any of OSU’s post players and only Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash played more minutes than the redshirt freshman.
“I think the (health) is coming a lot quicker than his rhythm is at this point – I think he’s OK foot-wise,” Ford said of Cobbins. “But he’s starting to get in a much better rhythm and I mentioned to our team how much he continues to get better, which gives us a major bonus when we’ve got three guys (in the post) … between (Kamari) Murphy, Cobbins and (Philip) Jurick. They scored 19 points and got (23) rebounds, that’s something we need.”
A game after scoring a season-low 6 points against South Florida, Nash responded with a 10-point game, shooting 4 for 10 from the field – including an 0-for-3 night from 3-point range. Markel Brown led the Cowboys in scoring with 15 points, going 5 for 11 (45.5 percent) from the field.
The Cowboys will get off for finals week and return to action Dec. 16 for a 3 p.m. home game against Central Arkansas.