Oklahoma State gets defense going in time for Maui Invitational

Photo by Tony Capobianco

Written by Alexi Bollwerk

The Oklahoma State men’s basketball team finally played the type defensive game that first-year head coach Brad Underwood is accustomed to, just in time for the Maui Invitational.

The Cowboys defense made it look like they were playing a little league basketball team when they defeated the New Orleans Privateers 117-72 on Wednesday. The Cowboys forced 23 turnovers and scored 31 points off turnovers.

“Coach wants us to run in transition and try to get easy buckets,” Senior forward Leyton Hammonds said. “We got a point guard like Jawun Evans and a shooter like Phil Forte. The points are gonna come, we just gotta play hard on defense.”

The Cowboys used Tuesday’s practice almost exclusively to work on defense. Senior guard Phil Forte said it was a difficult practice, but it has seemed to have paid off.

osu2016“It was intense, kinda like every practice is,” Forte said, “I think the coaches try to challenge us mentally and probably more than physically yesterday. Going in as players, we knew what we had to do. We had to improve.”

After the Cowboys gave up 90 points to Central Arkansas in their second game of the season, it was important for the Cowboys to play a defensive game against the Privateers. Forte said it was unacceptable to give up that many points, and the coaches weren’t happy with it.

“No matter who we play we can’t give up that many points,” Forte said. “We definitely had to work on transition defense and play defense without fouling.”

Underwood was pleased with the Cowboys’ recent performance and said he wants his team to be known as a defensive team.

“Our objective is to make sure that teams have to score through us, not because we make a mistake,” Underwood said. “We have to make sure if we make a mistake, that we’ve got somebody there recovering and fighting to try to cover for him. We are getting there, but we’re not there yet.”

Forte is in his final year of eligibility and is excited to finally be able to play in the Maui Invitational.

“I mean that’s what you want. Growing up as a kid and as a basketball fan, you’re always watching the Maui Invitational. Always around Thanksgiving, it’s a tournament I’ve always watched growing up. So to be able to play in that is a huge honor. So I’m looking forward to it. Our team hasn’t really been tested against some NCAA tournament teams yet, so that’ll be a challenge that we’re looking forward to. Just take it one game at a time. Go out there and try to get better still. Nothing changes. We have to do what we do and then take it one game at a time and go from there.”

The Cowboys will open up the tournament with Connecticut. The historically powerful Huskies come in at 1-2 after opening the season with losses against Wagner and Northeastern.

“We’ll see a different style and a different team in UCONN on Monday that has a big shot blocker. Every night is something new but we are grasping it. We are going to go fight for three straight nights, no matter who is on the other bench. See you in Maui.”

 

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About: Tony Capobianco

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Sports Kave senior writer and podcast host

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