By JASON ELMQUIST
It’s the most wonderful time of the year for college basketball players.
The Oklahoma State men’s basketball players completed their finals this week and for the next month, the seventh-ranked Cowboys will just focus on basketball — and growing as a team.
“I love that — no 20-hour rules. As I told the guys, it becomes an NBA schedule,” Cowboy coach Travis Ford said. “There’s no classes, all you have to concentrate on is basketball. It’s a great opportunity for your team to get better.”
While the coaches are happy to have limits on the amount of time spent with their players, the players are looking forward to spending more time as a team — without the distractions of classes or students.
“With us being here with nobody else — no students here — I think we’ll get some special bonding during this time,” sophomore Kamari Murphy said. “Getting to travel some and just being together during Christmas time, with no students being here, will be a good time for us. It’s an important time for us.”
Oklahoma State’s time away from classwork will begin Saturday when the Cowboys take part in the All-College Classic at Oklahoma City’s Cheasapeake Energy Arena, facing Louisiana Tech at 1 p.m.
Louisiana Tech comes into the contest with an 8-2 record following a 93-71 victory over Northwestern State. The Bulldogs are paced by Rasheem Appleby, who is averaging 16.8 points per game, one of three Louisiana Tech players averaging double digits. Alex Hamilton is contributing 14.3 points per game, followed by Chris Anderson with 11.3 per contest.
“They are a very talented basketball team with some great guards and one of the premier shot blockers in the country on the inside,” Ford said. “It should be a great matchup because their strengths are very similar to our strengths and they are very experienced.”
Louisiana Tech, alma mater of NBA Hall of Famer Karl Malone, has only once beaten a ranked opponent, and that was in 1984 on the back of a Malone-led squad. The Bulldogs are 1-36 all-time against ranked teams, though the last time the program played a ranked foe was in 2011.