Oklahoma State-76, Nicholls State-56, Now that's more like it

It was a dominating performance on both ends of the floor as the Cowboys finally gave us some hope for the season.  We have all known that there is a lot of talent on the floor, we just hadn't seen it all come together until Saturday. The ball movement on the offensive end was much better than we have seen up to now, and the defense was actually able to play man-to-man and rotate help to driving guards and posted up big men without getting wildly out of position.

It was a complete game by the Pokes as they jumped out to a 12-3 lead early and never allowed Nicholls back in it. The best thing to see was the pure shooting that was on display.  While I don't like that there were only 12 assists, almost every shot attempt was a good look, and they were falling. As a team the Pokes shot 63% (31-49), and after a few fell it was like a snowball effect.  Guys were going up with confidence instead of the hesitation we have seen up to now.

More after Jumpy.

Individual performances that stood out:

Keiton Page finished with 18 points and had 13 of those in the first half on 6-8 shooting.  For the most part he created his own shots, but the team created some of those opportunities for him. There was one nice sequence where Page curled around a Moses screen and Penn hit him perfectly on the other side of it for a 14 foot jumper... other than that, his shots were in transition or came after a little head fake got the defender in the air.  He was definitely feeling it from deep.

Fred Gulley hit a three and found a few nice passing lanes that indirectly lead to scores or free throws and weren't counted as assists. He also played some great defense against the Colonels best player, (NBA-ready) Anatoly Bose.  I know Bose finished with 37 points, but Gulley did an excellent job not letting him get involved early and he forced Bose to start the game 1-9 from the field. Most of Bose's points came in the 2nd half when the game was out of reach and the Pokes were coming at him with a variety of defenders.

Marshall Moses looks to be the real deal this season (even though I keep fighting my urge to buy in).  I keep expecting the letdown game (or series of games) we have become accustomed to seeing from Moses, but he just keeps producing. His stat line from Saturday is about as efficient as it gets. 16 points on 6-7 shooting, 4-4 from the line, 6 rebs, 2 steals in 27 minutes.  If you extrapolate those stats out across 35 or so minutes that is a sick line.  That little fade away shot of his on the block is just falling this season.  If that continues, then getting him in position on the block looks like automatic points.

Darrell Williams just has a nose for the ball.  Dude comes up with more loose balls and tipped rebounds than anyone I can remember.  He had one nice sequence early in the 2nd when he missed a running hook, missed the tip, missed the tip, then made the tip.  He just gets up quicker than anyone else.  He also showed some nice handles for a big man taking it full court after a steal for the lay-in, and driving and kicking from the top of the key a few times.

Markel Brown looked good late as he had a couple of driving baskets and played some nice defense registering 2 steals.  We really need him and Jean-Paul Olukemi to step their game up a little as they are the 2 best slashers on the team and could really disrupt the zone defenses I predict we will see a lot of. (Olukemi was in foul trouble all night and was a non-factor)

Jerred Shaw had a follow up thunder-slam in the 2nd and ran down the court fist pumping and talking to himself for 15 seconds.  Jerrod Shaw is quickly becoming one of the most likable Cowboys.  If you don't love Shaw... you probably also don't love puppies, Chipotle, and blowies.  Just a feel-good kind of guy.

Another note that doesn't fit anywhere else in this article....the Colonels 2nd leading scorer Fred Hunter getting in foul trouble early was very helpful. (Side question... when was the last time two Fred's were matched up against each other in a basketball game?  1947?)  Hunter sat 3 minutes into the game with 2 fouls and didn't return until after halftime. Hunter ended up not even attempting one shot on the night (he averages 23 ppg).

The Four Factors I'm Watching:

Assists to Made FG: Target 50%
Actual:39% (12 on 31 made FG). I liked the ball movement, but many of the made baskets came off the dribble and post ups. Ray Penn provided 5 of the assists and is starting to settle into his role as distributor and scorer.  If only we could combine Gulley and Penn into one super guard.

Free Throw %: Target 72%
Actual: 79% (11-14). The Pokes didn't get to the line as much as usual, but made the attempts count as they crossed the 70% mark for the first time this season.

Percentage of 3FG to Total FG (and 3FG%): Target <35% for attempts, >33% 3PG%
22% (11-49) of total shots were from 3 with the Cowboys making 3 of them (27%).  Most shots were from down low and mid range as the Pokes were finding plenty of open space.

Defensive Assesment: Since I still can't decide which defensive stat to use, I'll just do a write up here for now.
The Pokes played a man-to-man defense almost the entire game.  Help defense was good and the rotation was much better than last game.  To nit-pick a little... the only thing that hurt was the Cowboys were often out of position to block out because so much help was coming to the ball when someone slashed into the lane and it led to quite a few offensive rebounds for Nicholls (13 to be exact).  But with rebounders like Darrell Williams, Marshall Moses, and Matt Pilgrim down low I would rather see the defense over protect and have to scramble for rebounds than rigidly maintain their position and allow layups.

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