Las Vegas is a city where failure to “hit” typically costs you. But the Oklahoma State Cowboys beat the odds by defeating Oregon State 66-53 on a cold shooting night in the MGM Grand Main Event. The Cowboys (5-0) will advance in the tournament and face Tulsa, a 53-35 winner over Auburn, Wednesday night.
It was a defense that forced 17 turnovers and limited the Beavers to 33% shooting that paved the way for the Pokes. The combination of full court pressure and an active 2-3 zone defense wore down Oregon State in the second half.
The Oklahoma State offense sputtered as it will many nights this season when junior guard Phil Forte is not red hot. Despite receiving numerous screens to free him, Forte and the Cowboys struggled to find their offensive rhythm especially in the first half. But Forte posted 13 second half points and finished with 17. Forte’s steal and finish with 5:03 left in the second half put the Cowboys up comfortably 55-45.
Le’Bryan Nash led the team in scoring with 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting, but it was while Nash was sidelined with foul trouble that Oklahoma State pulled away. A second half defensive effort that created multiple live-ball turnovers triggered a decisive 13-2 run late in the game.
The Winning Moment
Forte, who was cold most of the night, came up with a steal and layup to put the Cowboys up 55-45 late in the game. The Beavers didn’t get any closer.
The Cowboys continue to hang their hat on defense. By mixing in full court pressure and a pesky zone, the Cowboys kept Oregon State off balance all night. The result: turnovers. Oklahoma State will have to continue to be a defensive-minded club to slow some of the high-powered Big 12 offenses that are out there this season.
Jeffrey Carroll can really shoot. The Cowboys will need another outside scoring option as teams will focus on Forte. Carroll was 3-of-5 from long range and finished with 13 points.
A Look At Tulsa
Tulsa (3-1) defeated Auburn Monday night to set up the final with Oklahoma State. The Golden Hurricane shot 48 percent from the floor and was 9 of 17 on 3-pointers. Tulsa is lead by junior guard James Woodard (Arcadia, OK). Woodard averaged 15.5 point per game last season and notched 16 in the win over Auburn.
The Golden Hurricane are coached by former Missouri Head Coach Frank Haith. Haith has four starters back from last year’s NCAA Tournament team. They are in their first year in the American Athletic Conference where they are picked to finish fifth in the 11 team league which features defending champ UConn.