By JOHN TRANCHINA , Associated Press
STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — Curtis Jones waited a full year, watching his teammates compete but unable to help them out, so he was thrilled to finally play his first home game.
Jones scored a career-high 23 points and Cam McGriff had 17 points and seven rebounds to lead Oklahoma State to an 82-73 victory over Central Arkansas on Friday.
Jones, who also had six rebounds, made just his second appearance for the Cowboys after becoming eligible last week, following his transfer from Indiana last year.
“I felt great,” said Jones, who scored two points on 1-of-5 shooting in 17 minutes in his OSU debut last Sunday. “I’ve been practicing here for a long time, so finally getting out there and getting to play at home, it was great.”
Oklahoma State (5-6) snapped a four-game losing streak.
“Winning is really hard,” said Cowboys coach Mike Boynton. “It doesn’t matter the opponent or the margin, we enjoy and celebrate wins. But we know we didn’t play as well as we need to, with the rest of the season and the teams that are on our schedule, to be able to have continued success.”
It was also a nice bounce back performance for McGriff, who scored just two points, on 1-of-8 shooting, in Oklahoma State’s previous game, a 79-56 loss to Nebraska last Sunday. McGriff, who averaged 16.8 points per game over the first six contests this year, scored just 16 in the three prior games combined.
“Cam had a great sense of maturity the last two weeks,” Boynton said, “even though he was struggling, had 10 rebounds the other day, and continues to do little things to help his teammates get better.”
Hayden Koval scored 21 points and added eight rebounds for Central Arkansas (4-8), a member of the Southland Conference. The Bears, who were playing their fifth straight road game, lost their third in a row.
“The thing I wanted to get out of this game was the fight — I wanted us to fight until the end,” said Central Arkansas coach Russ Pennell. “We had a bad lapse in the last two minutes of the first half that put us in a hole. That was a little bit discouraging, but the challenge was to play the second half with everything we had. I thought we did that. I thought we really competed hard, we didn’t give in.”
After trailing by 10 at halftime, the Bears pulled to within 67-64 after Thatch Unruh sank two free throws with 5:56 remaining, capping off a 14-6 run, but that was as close as Central Arkansas would get. Oklahoma State scored the next eight points over a span of 2 ½ minutes to restore a double-digit lead and seal the victory.
Central Arkansas: After Khaleem Bennett’s free throw with 4:46 left in the first half, the Bears, who had led most of the game, held a 27-23 advantage and looked poised for an upset. But after limiting Oklahoma State to 1-of-9 shooting over the previous eight minutes, Central Arkansas got outscored 20-6 for the rest of the half, and suddenly, the Bears were heading into the break trailing by 10. It would take Central Arkansas more than nine minutes of the second half before they sliced the deficit to fewer than eight points.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys, who played just their fourth home game of the season, began playing a lot of their reserve players early, and perhaps not coincidentally, trailed for most of the first half. But Oklahoma State, which has played one of the nation’s most difficult nonconference schedules, used a 13-2 run late in the opening half to take control, at least until the Bears made a late charge.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
Oklahoma State had been outrebounded in four of the previous six outings, but dominated the boards today, establishing a season high in rebound margin (plus-15) and matching their season-best total of 43. The Cowboys also set a season high by making 81.5 percent of their free throws (22 of 27).
Oklahoma State guard Mike Cunningham and forward Kentrevious Jones, who have averaged 18.3 and 7.1 minutes per game, respectively, were held out of the contest due to undisclosed disciplinary reasons.
“It was just team discipline,” Boynton said of the players’ absence from the lineup. “Our team has standards, they didn’t fulfill their part of that and there’s consequences to that. At this point, I’ll leave it at that.”
Central Arkansas: The Bears don’t play again until Dec. 30, when they return home for the first time since Nov. 28 to take on Lyon College.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys are off for the next eight days, facing Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at home on Dec. 29.