By Jason Elmquist
STILLWATER — The 22nd-ranked Oklahoma State men’s basketball got a handful Wednesday in the bruising play of South Florida at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
The Cowboys handled the physical nature of the game to hold on for a 61-49 victory just after suffinrits first loss of the seasonfour days ago against Virginia Tech.
“The game was played how I fully anticipated it being played. Most of their games are playing grinding it out,” OSU coach Travis Ford said. “It was a great defensive team we played. The pace was the way they wanted it for much of the night, but we don’t really mind playing that way. We’d like it to go a little bit faster.
“Pretty much every timeout I kept telling the team that whoever’s defense is better tonight is who is going to win. This was a defensive battle, and whoever outrebounds the other team (would win).”
Ford was right in that sense. Oklahoma State (6-1) finished with 13 more rebounds than the Bulls (5-3), while also scoring 19 second-chance points and limiting USF to just 7 second-chance points.
The biggest boost the Pokes got came in the performance of center Philip Jurick. The senior from Chattanooga, Tenn., tied his career-high in points with 7, while hauling in a game-high and career-high 14 rebounds.
“I thought Jurick really controlled the middle and handled the glass extremely well for them,” USF coach Stan Heath said. “They got some interior scoring from him, as well.”
Jurick, who is less than a year removed from an Achilles injury that sidelined him for back end of last season, also gave the Cowboys a big momentum boost when he put back a missed field goal for a one-handed slam with just under seven minutes left in the game — to give OSU its largest lead of the game.
“I’ve never seen him get that high before,” said OSU guard Markel Brown, who is known as a high-flier himself. “I didn’t know he could jump that high. I don’t know what got into him on that play.”
On the defensive end, the 6-foot-11, 260-pound center for OSU helped slow down the Bulls. USF’s trio of Anthony White, Martino Brock and Jordan Omogbehin — who played the center spot for the Bulls — went scoreless in the contest.
The big night from the OSU big man was needed for the Pokes, who got little production from Le’Bryan Nash, the team’s leading scorer at 19 points per game prior to Wednesday’s contest. Nash didn’t score his first points of the game until the 4:30 mark in the first half and ultimately finished with six points in the game.
Point guard Marcus Smart, however, finished with a game-high 15 points to go with a game-high five assists for the Cowboys. He also came away with a team-high four steals.
OSU will return to Gallagher-Iba Arena on Saturday for a 3 p.m. tipoff against Missouri State.