Tough Stretch Starts With Maryland


After the loss of Marcus Smart and Markel Brown to the 2014 NBA draft, there were questions surrounding the Oklahoma State Cowboys basketball program. And while a 9-1 record is something to be proud of, those questions will truly begin to be answered starting this Sunday with a visit from the 17th-ranked Maryland Terrapins.

That is not to say that the Pokes have not played well and looked great in stretches of the young season. But, beginning with the visit by Maryland, Travis Ford and the Cowboys face a brutal stretch of games that is much harder than anything their first ten contests offered.

Here is a rundown of their next seven games:

vs. #17 Maryland

vs. Missouri (in Kansas City)

vs. Kansas State

at #13 Iowa State

vs. #9 Texas

at #10 Kansas

at #15 Oklahoma

Playtime is over.

In a month we will know the answers to these questions. Can Oklahoma State get scoring outside of Le’Bryan Nash and Phil Forte? Is Michael Cobbins healthy enough to be a force in the paint against top-notch competition? And can Travis Ford deliver the big wins needed to take this program to next level? He and the Cowboys will get a chance to answer those questions and many more beginning with Sunday’s game against a young and talented Maryland squad.

Oklahoma State Cowboys
Oklahoma State Cowboys /

Oklahoma State Cowboys

The Terps (10-1) have wins over Arizona State and #13 Iowa State to brag about. Their lone loss came to #7 Virginia as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.  (Maryland is now oddly in the Big Ten…..)

Maryland’s program was hit by mass defections in the offseason but Mark Turgeon filled those voids by signing one of the nation’s best recruiting classes. One of those newcomers, true freshman Melo Trimble, has been a key reason for the the Terps’ hot start.

Trimble a McDonald’s All-American from Upper Marlboro, Maryland, is a scoring point guard averaging 15.8 points per game. He recorded a season-high 31 points in the victory over Arizona State.

The Cowboys do catch a break as the Terps will be without their ultra-athletic leading scorer Dez Wells. Wells is out with a broken wrist and likely will not return until after Christmas. But Maryland is not short of firepower in his absence.

Junior Jake Layman (15.4 points per game) is an inside-outside threat who made 61 three-pointers in 2013-2014 and has connected on 15 more this season. The 6’8″ Layman is also the Terps leading rebounder.

The backcourt also features a graduating senior transfer (North Carolina A&T) in Richaud Pack who has averaged 9.3 points per game thus far. Off the bench, freshman sharp-shooter Jared Nickens has poured in 18 three-pointers this season. Dion Wiley is another dynamic freshman that can provide scoring punch for Maryland.

Maryland’s size, depth and athleticism on the wings will be a tough matchup for the diminutive backcourt duo of Forte and Anthony Hickey.

In the frontcourt, Forward Evan Smotrycz is a tough matchup as well. From the “stretch-four” position, Smotrycz can be a tough assignment for either Nash or Cobbins. Smotrycz, a Michigan transfer, hit 54 three-pointers last year. Look for seven-foot Slovakian Michal Cekovsky, another freshman, to play some minutes down low alongside athletic sophomore Damonte Dodd.

The Maryland outcome will tell us whether the Pokes are going to be a factor in a crowded Big 12 race. The Terps have the look of an NCAA Tournament team. And the Pokes have several of those on the schedule in the next month.

Ford’s squad has relied on the tenacious defense of Forte and Hickey to create steals that generate offense. The Terps will not be as generous with the turnovers as the likes of Southeast Louisiana and Middle Tennessee State. If they are, then this defense truly is something special.

Maryland will be a measuring stick for the Pokes halfcourt offense. Can they get scoring throughout their line up when the steals are not coming and when teams key on Nash and limit Forte’s looks at the basket?

If the answer is “yes,” then these next seven games could be a lot of fun. A tough stretch of games begins with a stout test Sunday. How the Pokes handle it will be foreshadowing of the month to come.