Cent. Arkansas-Oklahoma St. Preview

Oklahoma State has successfully moved on from its first loss,

but coach Travis Ford would like to see his team do a better job of

maintaining a collective focus on the court.

The No. 24 Cowboys hope to satisfy their coach with a more

complete effort when they host Central Arkansas on Sunday.

Oklahoma State (7-1) has followed an 81-71 loss at Virginia Tech

on Dec. 1 by beating South Florida and Missouri State by a combined

32 points.

However, Ford was not entirely pleased with the most recent win,

62-42 over Missouri State last Saturday. Though the outcome was

never in doubt after the Cowboys scored 14 of the game’s first 16

points, they allowed the visitors to trim a 21-point halftime lead

to 11 and were outscored in the second half.

“I think our guys came out in the second half just thinking

(Missouri State was) automatically going to miss. Not that that’s

an excuse,” said Ford, whose team held the Bears to 33.3 percent

shooting. “They heard it from me in a few timeouts that we’ve got

to respond better than we’re responding here in the second

half.

“But I understand the mentality a little bit.”

Oklahoma State is among the nation’s better defensive teams,

holding opponents to 35.4 percent shooting and 57.6 points per

contest, but Ford wants to make sure his players do not become

complacent or take anything for granted. That’s especially true

during a favorable home stretch that continues Sunday and with

games next week against Texas-Arlington and Tennessee Tech.

“You’ve got to pick and choose when you really let in on them,”

Ford said. “I wasn’t hard on our guys after the game. It was more

of a teaching moment for me. Get their attention by just teaching

them and talking to them after the game.”

His team got the message.

“We can’t do that on a consistent basis,” said guard Markel

Brown, who had a team-high 15 points last Saturday. “It’ll hurt us

in the long run.”

Ford also hopes leading scorer Le’Bryan Nash (16.3 points per

game) can get back on track after totaling 16 points on 5-of-14

shooting in the last two games.

Talented freshman Marcus Smart (13.4 ppg) was held to a

season-low seven points against Missouri State, but he had seven

rebounds as the Cowboys owned a 46-22 advantage on the glass. With

a team-leading 7.4 boards per game, the 6-foot-4 Smart is one of

four Cowboys averaging at least 5.1 rebounds.

Oklahoma State won 69-57 in its only previous meeting with

Central Arkansas on Dec. 1, 2010.

Though the Bears (4-3) have averaged 83.0 points during a

three-game winning streak, coach and former Arkansas star Corliss

Williamson knows a daunting task awaits his team.

“The Cowboys are always tough, especially at home,” said

Williamson, whose team ranks among the national leaders in 3-point

shooting at 40.8 percent. “But we look at it as a great opportunity

to get better as a team and to improve as players. We’re looking

forward to the challenge.”

Guard Robert Crawford (15.2 ppg) leads four Bears averaging at

least 11.1 points. The senior scored a career-high 39 on 12-of-15

shooting – 7 of 9 from beyond the arc – in an 88-85 win at

Southeast Missouri State last Saturday.