Bedlam: Can Pokes End Five-Game Skid?

Mason Cox

The good news is Mason Cox gives Oklahoma State at least some semblance of a post presence for the first time since Michael Cobbins suffered a season-ending Achilles injury on Dec. 30. The bad news is the Cowboys may have to count on the 6-foot-10 walk-on who only practices around 60 percent of the time if anyone gets in foul trouble in Saturday's Bedlam showdown against Oklahoma.

The Cowboys (16-8 overall and 4-7 in Big 12 play) will be attempting to end a five-game losing streak – the longest skid in Travis Ford's five-plus years as head coach – against the Sooners (18-7, 7-5).

Ford was forced to call on Cox midway through the second half in Tuesday night's 87-68 loss to Texas. The Cowboys were without leading scorer Marcus Smart, who was serving the first of a three-game suspension for pushing a Texas Tech fan last Saturday in Lubbock. Smart, who is averaging a team-best 17.5 points per game, also will miss the Bedlam game.

That means other OSU players will be asked to contribute in ways they haven't needed to up until now.

Cox, a former soccer goalkeeper who never played high school basketball, had only been on the court for six minutes in three games prior to Tuesday night. But Ford put him in with the Cowboys trailing by nearly 25 points in the second half.

The senior mechanical engineering major who misses practice each Wednesday because he has a class that afternoon came off the bench to energize the Cowboys. Cox contributed two points, three rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot In just six minutes of action before being removed because he was tired.

"I thought the block was pretty impressive," said OSU guard Phil Forte. "He saved my butt. It was my man that was going to score … it was a good play on his part. He moves really well for his size, and he has really good athletic ability for his size. I think it showed.

"He does that stuff all the time in our practices. It was his chance to show off what he can bring to the table when the lights are on, and I was happy that he got the opportunity to do so," Forte added.

Ford and the Cowboys coaching staff discovered Cox while watching him practice with the OSU women's basketball team a few years ago. Cox was attempting to simulate former Baylor All-American Brittney Griner, a 6-8 post presence, as the Cowgirls prepared to face the Bears.

Instead of imitating the former Baylor women's standout he has spent much of the past two years working with OSU's scout team, helping Cobbins and Le'Bryan Nash prepare to face off against post players for the Cowboys opponents.

Who's he been this season? "Take your pick. (Joel) Embiid (of Kansas), or whoever it may be. (Ryan) Spangler. He's always been very good on the scout team, but will probably move off the scout team at this point," Ford said.

"He played well (against Texas). He gave us a spark, he gave us great energy and made a lot of positive plays."

Cox is definitely out of shape, and was only able to play six minutes against the Longhorns. But every little bit helps at this point for the short-handed Cowboys.

"We'll see (if he plays more against Oklahoma). But obviously I told him to be ready," Ford said. "He's got to get in shape first of all, and learn everything we're doing. I told him to be prepared to go if need be, as all of them need to be.

"It's difficult because he has obligations academically that correspond with practice a lot of times. But when he's there, and he's probably here 60 percent of the time, he's always a difference maker as far as protecting the rim and rebounding. He's a guy we've always seen and liked, and obviously I didn't hesitate to put him in the other night."

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