Notebook: Turnovers, home crowd key in Cowboys win

Jason Elmquist/Stillwater News PressOklahoma State senior Jeffrey Carroll (30) forces a travel by Stanford guard KZ Okpala in Monday's NIT game. Okpala had six turnovers as Stanford turned the ball over 19 times.

Oklahoma State used its defense to spark its offense when it needed it most Monday night.

The Cowboys’ offense struggled in the third quarter, but they turned to their defense to spark a rally. A five-point deficit entering the fourth quarter was quickly erased as the Cowboys rolled on to victory over Stanford in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament.

OSU forced 19 turnovers in its 71-65 win. The Cowboys scored 23 points off of those turnovers.

“We pride ourselves on the defensive end all year,” OSU senior Kendall Smith said. “When we’re really locked in on the defensive end, I think we’re a really good team. We’re going to go on some scoring droughts, but that’s the name of the game, but if we’re locked in defensively, they can’t score, either.”

The Cowboys committed only six turnovers in the win, which is the lowest mark of the season. OSU coach Mike Boynton said the Cowboys’ defensive pressure was key to keeping the ball out of the hands of Stanford’s post players Reid Travis and Michael Humphrey, who led the Cardinal with 14 and 15 points, respectively.

“I thought that was the key to the game, quite honestly,” Boynton said. “I knew they had great size and I knew they had a really good offensive weapon in (Reid) Travis, and we wanted to make him as inefficient as possible, which is what you do with really good players. You don’t stop those guys. … They don’t have the depth in the backcourt in terms of ball handling. We felt like extending our defense a little bit more could play into our favor and it did – it led to some really key baskets.”

Rowdy crowd

Despite it being the first day of spring break, Gallagher-Iba Arena was rocking at times Monday night. The crowd of 9,635 was the largest for any NIT game in program history, and the Cowboys’ largest for any game this season.

“Big part of that win goes to that crowd,” Boynton said to begin his press conference. “They were terrific. Tremendous, obviously, in numbers. Equally as good in energy and spirit. There were some moments there where we weren’t playing as well, but they were really engaged.”

OSU senior Jeffrey Carroll was surprised by the large turnout, because spring break started Monday.

“I was pretty shocked, honestly, because we knew the students were gone for the break,” Carroll said. “We had a great crowd tonight.”

Cardinal boards

Stanford’s height and length was an issue for the Cowboys throughout much of the game. The Cardinal outrebounded OSU 55-40 for one of the Cowboys’ most lopsided margins this season.

Humphrey led all players with 20 rebounds. His seven offensive rebounds matched the Cowboys’ leading rebounder’s – Jeffrey Carroll – total boards for the game.

“That’s my job. I take pride in getting on the boards. Scoring and getting on the boards are my two things to do. I have to do them every night.”

Stripe struggles

The Cowboys entered Monday’s game shooting 76.3 percent from the free throw line. On Monday night, they shot 52.2 percent (12 of 23) from the foul line.

Smith made 6 of 10, while Carroll sank 5 of 7 from the line. Meanwhile, Yankuba Sima missed all four of his attempts.

“That’s not us right there,” Carroll said. “I even missed a few that I don’t normally miss. That’s just our focus.”

Boynton addressed the uncharacteristic misses after the win.

“We shoot free throws about every five minutes in practice,” Boynton said. “We just put them on the line and they just shoot them. We shot 80 percent for two months and then we shot 60 percent for three weeks. … You move on and you don’t try to make a big deal out of it, because we have good free throw shooters going to the free throw line.”