Louisiana Tech-Oklahoma St. Preview
Oklahoma State had few problems bouncing back from its first loss of the season, but it could face more of a challenge against a team that might be able to keep up with it offensively.
The No. 7 Cowboys hope having more than a week off isn't enough to slow them down Saturday when they face high-scoring Louisiana Tech in the All-College Classic in Oklahoma City.
After losing to then-No. 21 Memphis on Dec. 1 in Orlando, Oklahoma State (8-1) returned home and blew out South Carolina 79-52 five days later. Le'Bryan Nash's 16 points led the way and Marcus Smart had 11 of his 13 in the first half.
"I feel like it was good for us to respond after a loss and really focus during practice since we got back from Florida. Everyone responded in the right way," forward Michael Cobbins said.
The Cowboys held the Gamecocks to 35.6 percent shooting and 15 points in the opening 20 minutes while forcing a season-high 24 turnovers.
"It was a team effort on the defensive end. Everyone was doing their job - whether they were on the ball or off the ball," Cobbins said. "The bigs were doing a great job helping each other out, and the guards locked down the perimeter."
While South Carolina is 279th in the nation in points per game (67.8), Louisiana Tech (8-2) figures to provide a better test for the Cowboys' defense. The Bulldogs average 86.2 points to rank among the country's top 20, not far behind an Oklahoma State team that's sixth with 90.4 points per game.
"We are excited about the opportunity to play a really good team," Louisiana Tech coach Michael White said. "We know that if we play terrific, I think everyone in the locker room feels like we will have a chance if we play great, despite what they are ranked."
Louisiana Tech is 1-36 all-time against Top 25 opponents - its lone victory came with Karl Malone leading the way - but this group will come to Oklahoma City off a pair of wins over 2013 NCAA tournament teams.
The Bulldogs overcame a season-worst 36.5 percent shooting effort to beat Southern 69-50 last Saturday, then got a season-high 28 points from guard Raheem Appleby in a 93-71 rout of high-scoring Northwestern State on Wednesday.
"You hate to give up 71, but you have to keep it in perspective," White said. "... I think we got some of our identity back. We know what we can be good at. We know we just beat a good team, but we also know our ceiling is much higher."
Louisiana Tech has one of the top 10 turnover margins in the nation (plus-5.6), but so does Oklahoma State (plus-5.8). The Cowboys have turned it over nine times or fewer in their last four wins.
Smart gave it away five times apiece in a narrow win over Butler and the loss to Memphis, but had only one against the Gamecocks.
But Nash was most excited about the balance around the Cowboys' star. All five starters scored in double figures for the first time this season and Smart had a season-high five assists.
"Marcus was passing well tonight," Nash said. "They kept focusing on Marcus, and we took advantage of it. We showed we have more scorers than just Marcus."
The Cowboys have won all three meetings against the Bulldogs, all of which took place in the 1990s.