Seventh-ranked Oklahoma State required patience Tuesday night -- on both ends of the floor.
The Big 12 Conference's second-leading offense, averaging 88.4 points per game, faced off with a Delaware State squad that employed the deliberate, shot-clock-eating offense of veteran head coach Greg Jackson. The time-consuming tactics worked for a half, but the athletic Cowboys bolted out of the gate in the second half, forcing their guests to play at a much quicker pace.
A 30-16 halftime advantage ballooned to 48-18 four minutes into the second half thanks mainly to full-court defensive pressure. After playing at Jackson's pace for 20 minutes, OSU head coach Travis Ford decided it was time to play at his pace the rest of the way.
The 75 points in a 75-43 victory were 13 points below his squad's season average, but Ford knew what to expect from Tuesday's opponent.
"We played hard in the first half, but we didn't play with the energy or push the ball the way we wanted," said Ford, whose team returns to the court against Colorado in the MGM Grand Showcase in Las Vegas on Saturday. "We didn't make anything happen; we played within the slow-down style of basketball. I told the guys at halftime that we were better than how we were playing."
"(Delaware State) wanted to slow it down a lot, and we actually got to put some pressure on them and we pushed the ball," said Cowboys senior guard Markel Brown. "I think that is when we are at our best, when we're pushing the ball, moving down the court and taking fluid shots that we like to take."
The Hornets (2-9) ate much of the shot clock during a first half that saw them shoot 24 percent (6 of 25) and go scoreless for an eight-minute stretch. Yet, a long-range 3-point basket by Casey Walker in the final minute kept Delaware State within 12 points. Since giving up 32 first-half points to Memphis on Dec. 1, the Cowboys have held their last three opponents under 20 points in the opening 20 minutes: South Carolina (15), Louisiana Tech (18), and Delaware State on Tuesday.
"Coming into this game, we knew that (Delaware State) was going to be running a lot of false motion and run the clock down," Brown said. "We just sat down and talked about it all week in practice, about playing disciplined defense and not letting them get the shots that they want, even lulling us to sleep or anything."
The game was played at OSU's pace in the second half.
"I thought we did an excellent job in the first half," said Jackson, in his 14th season at Delaware State. "We played with discipline and we played hard. Then talent took over; the difference in that ball game is simple talent. We controlled the tempo in the first half and held (OSU) to 30 points, but they played at their pace the rest of the way. You can only play with emotion for so long."
Kendall Gray led the Hornets with 12 points and 11 rebounds. The Cowboys out-rebounded Delaware State 39-34.
Marcus Smart, the Big 12's leading scorer, did not score in the first half. However, the athletic sophomore guard sparked the early second-half run, recording two of his three steals -- OSU had 10 overall -- and following them up with a 3-pointer and dunk. Brown, who tied for high-point honors with Le'Bryan Nash with 14 points, drained a long-range 3-pointer to put OSU up 54-30 and end any hopes of a Hornets comeback. The lead was 34 points with 13:52 remaining.
Despite another lopsided win, Oklahoma State continued to struggle from 3-point range. The Cowboys entered Tuesday 10 of 47 (21 percent) over their last three starts. They were was 6 of 23 Tuesday, with Phil Forte hitting 1 of 10.
"I don't think anything about (his struggles)," Ford said. "I want him to shoot it. You don't worry about makes or misses with a guy of his shooting ability. We know if they go in, it really helps your team, but we've got other things to worry about."