Team Effort

Team Effort

The Cowboys couldn't keep the smiles off their faces in the waning moments of Saturday's victory against Texas A&M. Nothing changed in the postgame, either, as Brian Williams, Michael Cobbins and coach Travis Ford were all in high spirits. And why shouldn't they be?

Without star freshman Le'Bryan Nash, who suffered a fractured left hand in Wednesday's loss at Oklahoma, the Cowboys knew someone was going to have to step up and fill the 15-point, five rebound per game void left by Nash.

And this feat had to be accomplished against a Texas A&M squad that was finally back to full strength with the return of starters Khris Middleton and Dash Harris in the past week.

That didn't figure to be a good mix for a Cowboy team that dropped a 15-point decision in College Station in January with Nash in the fold and Middleton and Harris out of the Aggie lineup.

Texas A&M got extraordinary performances from unlikely players in its decisive win over OSU in Aggieland.

Saturday in Stillwater, it was the exact opposite that occurred.

Seven players played extensive minutes for OSU and key performances from some unlikely suspects paved the way for a 60-42 Cowboy victory in Gallagher-Iba Arena.

Oklahoma State's leading scorers were pretty predictable with Brian Williams leading the way with 17 followed by Keiton Page's 15 and Markel Brown's 12.

But what made the difference on Saturday was the play of center Philip Jurick, point guard Cezar Guerrero and forward Marek Soucek.

"Because losing a guy like Le'Bryan, who does so much for us offensively, handling the ball, there's so many things we do within our offense that he's involved in. We were wondering if we had enough time to adapt, and for the flow of the game to go like it did for us, I was very impressed and pleased with our team, how they responded in such a short amount of time and accepting the challenge of playing a really good team," Ford said. "Obviously, if we got everybody (back to full health), our team is about as talented as A&M. These guys continue to overachieve. You kind of move along and accept the adversity one by one, and just move on.

"We spent more time just talking the last two days in practice trying to get our guys in the right frame of mind and our guys responded."

And they responded in a big way.

Guerrero played perhaps his most controlled basketball of the season and ran the team efficiently in his 18 minutes off the bench. He didn't force the issue; he didn't turn the ball over. He let the game come to him en route to a deceivingly effective five-point, two-assist afternoon. And one of those assists came on a spectacular deep alley-oop connection with Williams.

Jurick was dominant at times against a talented Aggie front line. He didn't attempt a field goal — not uncommon for him — but finished with seven rebounds, two blocks and effected A&M's ability to get inside.

The most surprising undoubtedly was the stellar play of freshman forward Marek Soucek. The Czech Republic native had four points, two rebounds and a block but, as Williams pointed out, he did the dirty work that can't be found looking through the box score.

Soucek took a key charge during a Cowboy run, he effectively closed passing lanes on defense, he set excellent screens on the perimeter to spark the OSU offensive sets. He did a little bit of everything and looked thrilled in the process.

"I talked to (all three of) them in front of the team, I called some of them on the phone last night," Ford said. "I just told them, especially in front of the team, that everybody is going to have to do something more. It doesn't have to be scoring. That's what everybody wants to look at first with Le'Bryan. For us, 15 points is a lot of points, but it may be screening better, it may be rebounding better, it may be defending better. Whatever it may be, somebody's going to have to do more, and it started with those three guys.

"I told all three of them, 'you will play'. I wanted to try to rest our guys as much as I could with breaks, something I haven't been able to do, and they all responded, they all did something positive."

The Cowboys (14-15, 7-9 Big 12) played well in all areas and got major contributions from the bench to facilitate it, something that had clearly been lacking the past month and a half.

And even though the efficient offensive numbers (47 percent shooting and 15 assists) are easy to spot, OSU played its most suffocating interior defense in weeks to limit the Aggies to 31.9 percent shooting, ultimately forcing them to the outside where they finished just 4-of-17 from 3 and 0-of-8 in the second half.

Obviously, Nash is a huge part of the Oklahoma State team and he is not a player you want out of the rotation at any point. That said, on Saturday his absence forced players to expand their roles and step up their game. They did it with great success across the board, providing another sign of hope moving forward.

"We're just showing that even if we're down one, we can still compete," Cobbins said. "It just takes everyone stepping up another level and filling those shoes."

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