By JEFF LATZKE
STILLWATER — When Oklahoma State center Philip Jurick sprung up quickly to grab a missed shot and slammed it down all in one motion, it was a sign of how far he's come in a short time.
Just recovered from an Achilles tendon injury at the end of last season and 25 pounds slimmer, Jurick is trying to provide an inside presence that could make 23rd-ranked Cowboys even more of a force.
Marcus Smart scored 15 points, Jurick grabbed a career-high 14 rebounds and Oklahoma State bounced back from its first loss of the season to beat South Florida 61-49 on Wednesday night.
Jurick led the way as the Cowboys (6-1) held a 41-28 edge on the boards, turning them into a 19-7 advantage in second-chance points. None stood out more than Jurick's putback jam that gave OSU a 15-point lead in the second half.
"I've never seen him get that high before. I didn't know he could jump that high," said teammate Markel Brown, who scored 13 points "I don't know what got into him on that play."
Jurick said he's been driven by his injury rehab and by the Cowboys' chances to be a special team this season. They are ranked for the first time since 2007.
"I felt pretty good," he said. "Coach told me before the game, 'Just be more confident on the offensive end.' I think that goes a long ways."
Coach Travis Ford said that encouragement has been a point of emphasis with the 6-foot-11 senior.
"He does lack in confidence. We believe in him more than he believes in himself," Ford said. "We challenged him as far as rebounding, how to rebound and what type of rebounds we need from him, and he responded.
"When we can get a performance from a big man like that, because we've got some of the best guards in the country, I believe, then that just helps our team be that much better."
Victor Rudd had 14 points and Anthony Collins scored 12 for South Florida (5-3). The Bulls were held to a season-worst 34 percent shooting and had their lowest scoring game of the season.
Smart, the Cowboys' playmaking freshman, nailed a 3-pointer from the left wing to launch a 16-5 run that put Oklahoma State in control in the second half. He finished it off by hitting another 3, then making a quick steal in the backcourt before setting up Brown's layup for a 48-34 lead with 7:29 remaining.
The Bulls couldn't get closer than nine points after that. Coach Stan Heath said they're looking for just what Jurick gave Oklahoma State.
"The lack of probably an interior game is haunting us a little bit," Heath said. "When you have a stretch like that where you don't score, you want to throw the ball inside and we just don't have that presence right now."
In looking over the box score, Heath saw that his group of three centers combined for no points and five rebounds.
"I'm looking for somebody at that 5 position to give me something," Heath said. "Give me something. That's kind of where we are right now."
Le'Bryan Nash, the Cowboys' leading scorer with a 19-point average, ran into some minor foul trouble and had only six points — four coming on free throws in the final 2 minutes.
Nash, who had scored in double digits in 15 consecutive games dating to last season, attempted just four shots.
Ford said he wasn't worried that Nash had revered to his freshman form, when he'd have one big game and then follow it with a lackadaisical performance.
"In a game like this, when you get in foul trouble and you have to sit out, you are not get in a flow," Ford said. "It's impossible.
"In a game like this, if you are not able to stay out there for a long period of time and. get a sweat going and get a feel for their defense, it's hard to get going."
The missing offense didn't matter nearly as much with Oklahoma State's defense returning to form after Virginia Tech shot 50 percent in the second half while beating the Cowboys 81-71 on Saturday. That amounted to 16 more points than any other opponent had scored against OSU this season.
The Cowboys clamped down, limiting South Florida to two baskets over the final 12 minutes of the first half but still led only 24-22 when Shaun Noriega made a 3-pointer to start the second half for the Bulls.
Oklahoma State had an answer every time the Bulls pulled within a basket, and Smart finally sparked the run that put it away.
Jurick's slam, off Smart's missed 3-pointer, made it 50-35.
"Him being out there is impressive to me. But that dunk, that's something we haven't seen in practice or anything," Ford said. "He usually lays them up in practice, even in drills, he usually doesn't dunk. It takes him a while to get warmed up.
"We haven't seen that from him."