STILLWATER, Okla. _ The No. 23/24 Oklahoma State Cowboys took a little while to get started Sunday, but when they finally did, they certainly played like a Top 25 team.
The Big 12 Cowboys dominated the final 10 minutes of the first half and used that cushion to coast to a 91-63 victory over the University of Central Arkansas Bears before a crowd of 5,538 at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
OSU improved to 8-1 overall, halting UCA’s three-game winning streak. The Bears dropped to 4-4.
Playing without All-Southland Conference guard LaQuentin Miles _ out with a broken right hand _ the Bears jumped out early with their up-tempo offense, taking a 22-11 lead at the 12:00 mark of the first half. Robert Crawford and Jarvis Garner had 3-pointers for UCA and Jordan Harks added a couple of inside baskets. UCA shot 66 percent from the field in the first eight minutes.
But the Cowboys stormed back, stringing together a 31-8 run to end the first half, good for a 42-30 lead at the break. OSU got their first lead at the 6:42 mark on a driving basket by Markel Brown and never slowed down after that. The margin reached as much as 15 points with a minute left before Crawford nailed his second 3-pointer for UCA to close it to 12 points at halftime.
“Our guys were getting out in transition, we were able to knock down shots," said UCA head coach Corliss Williamson of the Bears’ start. “I thought we had them a little flustered offensively and we were able to get some turnovers with our pressure. Our guys were doing pretty good.
“Anytime you play against a ranked team, you expect your guys to be kind of jacked-up and full of energy. We did that but it was just too bad we weren’t able to sustain it. I know Oklahoma State is a tough team, and well-coached. We knew at some point in time they were going to get back into it, and unfortunately for us, we just couldn’t maintain."
Harks, playing on an injured foot, tied his career high of 16 points, including eight of UCA’s first 13 in the second half. But the Bears never got closer than 20 points down the stretch as the Cowboys shot 48.6 percent from the field in the second half to finish at 48.5 for the game.
OSU’s Le’Bryan Nash, one of the top scorers in the Big 12, led all scorers with 19 points as the Cowboys had five players in double figures. Markel Brown added 14 points, while Phil Forte had 12 and Marcus Smart and Michael Cobbins had 10 apiece. OSU outrebounded UCA 53-35.
UCA, playing with only two seniors, shot just 31.6 percent from the field in the second half, including 3 of 13 from 3-point range. Garner followed Harks with 14 points, while Crawford added 11.
“They were attacking the basket and getting to the free-throw line during that run they had,’ said Williamson. “And on the other end of the court, we kind of lost our minds offensively. I thought we took some quick shots, some forced shots. We got out of rhythm on offense. They turned it up defensively and their strength got to us.
“They were pushing us out of our spots when we were driving and we didn’t make the right adjustments."
UCA returns to the road next Saturday, playing Mississippi State at Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson, Miss.