Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford could only frown and shake his head trying to explain what happened in his team’s 83-65 thwacking at the hands of No. 3 Missouri on Wednesday night at Mizzou Arena. He had no answers, only offering credit to his opponent, whom he said, “probably played more like the No. 1-ranked team in America.”
“Let’s just move on, and let’s get out of here,” Ford said. “Let’s forget about this game.”
On the same night three weeks ago, the Tigers (24-2, 11-2 Big 12 Conference) were leaving Gallagher-Iba Arena with similar dejection after falling prey to a trap in Stillwater, Okla., for their second loss of the season.
“Growth,” said senior guard Kim English on what changed. “We grew. We worked very hard this week diligently, and we came out victorious.”
English was one of five on his team finishing with double-digit points. Senior guard Marcus Denmon led with 17. The point guard duo of sophomore Phil Pressey and junior Michael Dixon split 30 evenly. Senior forward Ricardo Ratliffe recorded a double-double against the Cowboys (12-14, 5-8 Big 12 Conference), his fifth of the season.
The Tigers’ coffin-nailing began as early as the 15:33 of the first half, when Le’Bryan Nash, the Cowboy freshman that rallied last meeting’s upset with 27 points, dunked his final points of the half. From there, Missouri ripped a 9-0 scoring run, engineered by Dixon, who scored seven in that span.
“He’s playing at a high, high level right now," coach Frank Haith said. “We sense it. He senses it when he gets in the game. He’s got a great confidence the way he’s playing right now.”
After Nash rattled away his fourth and final point, he soon sat on the bench with two early fouls, and his team would be outscored 37-12 entering the half.
“It was just all about them, really," Ford said. "I could sit here and just talk about them. We never really responded.”
Early in the second half, the Cowboys appeared re-energized and came out aggressively. But the Tigers showed no signs off releasing the gas either. Denmon drilled his first three-pointer out of the half’s first TV timeout before swooping in for a layup on the right side of the basket and nailing another far-out trey.
Haith, whose players seem to echo him about the days of preparation leading to such wins, said the team was attentive in the three days after its win against Baylor on Saturday.
“The guys talk about prep work,” he said. “I think we had great attention to detail in our preparation and when guys are asking questions when we’re watching film, and they’re interjecting, that’s when you know you (have) their attention. I feel like this week we got their attention.”
Along with English and Denmon, senior center Steve Moore flushed two dunks and senior guard Jarrett Sutton got floor time in what was the 101st win for the class, the most in program history.
“When it’s just your college buddies and you’re just out there playing basketball, it’s fun,” said English. “I’m sure it’s fun to watch, but it’s fun to play.”