Tennessee Tech-Oklahoma St. Preview
By NOEY KUPCHAN
(AP) -- Oklahoma State has been playing suffocating defense all season and been especially stingy of late, but coach Travis Ford believes his team will only get stronger.
Tennessee Tech can't be happy to hear that.
Hoping to build up more steam before a couple of tough games, the No. 24 Cowboys try to continue their home domination of non-conference opponents Saturday in their first matchup against the Golden Eagles.
After surrendering its most points thus far in an 81-71 loss at Virginia Tech on Dec. 1, Oklahoma State (9-1) has held teams to an average of 49.5 during a four-game winning streak.
The Cowboys' defensive prowess was on full display Wednesday in a 69-44 rout of Texas-Arlington. Oklahoma State limited the Mavericks to 17 points in the first half and forced 31 turnovers, its most since 2007.
"We're grinding out, we're winning ugly, but that's just who we are. We're winning with defense," Ford said. "I was telling our guys that we're 9-1, and that's a positive thing, but the great thing is we have so much room for improvement.
"There are so many areas that we can get better at and will get better at. It's good that we have a good record, but we're not a great team yet. We want to be great in February or March."
In addition to scoring a game-high 17 points, junior Markel Brown had a career-best five steals while freshman sensation Marcus Smart added four. Senior Philip Jurick grabbed 10 rebounds, including a career-best eight on the offensive glass.
"(Oklahoma State) has great size at all positions," Texas-Arlington coach Scott Cross said. "... Our 31 turnovers obviously played a part but you have to give them credit because they defend. Philip Jurick is a big old boy. He can really disrupt things inside."
Oklahoma State, which hosts No. 14 Gonzaga on Dec. 31 before opening Big 12 play at Kansas State on Jan. 5, will first try to get by Tennessee Tech (6-5). The Cowboys have taken 43 of 44 home games against non-conference opponents by an average of 19.2 points, going 178-4 in such matchups since 1987. They are 5-0 against teams currently in the Ohio Valley Conference.
The Golden Eagles have dropped five of eight and are coming off Tuesday's 81-62 loss at Auburn. Senior Jud Dillard led the way with 22 points for Tennessee Tech, which went a season-worst 1 for 18 from 3-point range.
"I thought we got some good looks, but I also thought we took some bad shots," coach Steve Payne said. "I thought we were anxious to play a little bit. I don't think we played together like we have been playing or as tough and hard as we have been."
Dillard is second in the OVC with 19.0 points per game and the only player on the team averaging double figures.
The Golden Eagles went 0-3 against conference rival Murray State last season in their only matchups against Top 25 opponents.
Updated December 21, 2012