The finish to the Old Spice Classic semifinal between No. 5 Oklahoma State and Butler was not a work of art to say the least. The two teams combined to shoot 0-for-6 from the field and 1-for-7 from the foul line down the stretch, with Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart accounting for three of the misses from the charity stripe. Ultimately the game was decided by a Michael Cobbins blocked shot as time expired, advancing the Cowboys to the title game by the final score of 69-67.
The Cowboys shot 50% from the field for the game but their offensive execution down the stretch left much to be desired (they shot 40.7% in the second half), with the Bulldogs taking advantage and fighting back to with one point in the game’s final seconds. But even with the subpar finish there’s at least one positive (in addition to the win, of course) that Travis Ford’s team can take out of Friday’s game.
That positive would be the play of sophomore forward Kamari Murphy, who finished with ten points, eight rebounds and two assists on the afternoon. Much of the “heavy lifting” will be done by Smart (17 points, eight rebounds and three assists), Le’Bryan Nash (15 points, five rebounds) and Markel Brown (nine points, six rebounds), due to both their skill levels and the way in which the Oklahoma State offense is set up.
But if the Cowboys are to make a run at ending Kansas’ reign atop the Big 12 standings (KU’s won at least a share of the last nine regular season titles), players such as Murphy and Cobbins will need to be heard from.
On the season Murphy’s leading the team in offensive rebounding rate (16.2) and ranks behind only Nash in defensive rebounding rate (21.5). Those percentages are significant improvements over what Murphy (4.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg entering today’s game) was able to contribute last season, in which he played just over 18 minutes per game (entering Friday he was averaging 16.6 mpg this season).
As a senior at IMG Academy Murphy averaged 20 points and ten rebounds per game, and it’s safe to say that the same number of offensive opportunities aren’t there in Stillwater due to the presence of the talented players mentioned above. That required an adjustment of sorts from Murphy, as he needed to become even more of a “lunchpail” guy in order to consistently see the floor. Through seven games Murphy’s shown signs of improvement in that role, and if he can continue on that path both he and Oklahoma State will reap the benefits.