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Underwood's Up-Tempo Style Leading To Wins At Oklahoma St.

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(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer) (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
STILLWATER, Oklahoma -

Brad Underwood is about to find out if his attacking style of offense works in the Big 12.

The first-year coach at Oklahoma State has brought a big dose of energy and a nice batch of wins to the seemingly dormant program.

Last season, the Cowboys slogged their way to a 12-20 record, and coach Travis Ford was fired. Now, the Cowboys (10-2) are averaging 93 points per game and knocking on the door of the Top 25.

The same system that helped Underwood win 89 games in three seasons at Stephen F. Austin is working now. The Cowboys have scored at least 100 points six times, and they have wins over Connecticut, Georgetown, Tulsa and Wichita State.

Underwood said he wants to push the pace even harder, and up next is a sturdy defense on Dec. 30 in Oklahoma State's Big 12 opener at home against No. 11 West Virginia. Underwood will be going for his 100th career win.

"The one thing I want to do? Play faster," he said after a 102-66 victory over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Dec. 14. "We can't play fast enough for me."

The players are having fun taking advantage of the pace — six average at least seven points per game.

"I love it," forward Leyton Hammonds said. "Especially on the defensive end, when we're being the aggressors and trying to take the ball instead of trying to guard our man. I love playing like this. It gives us a lot of layups and a lot of fast-break dunks."

In addition to implementing a popular style of play, Underwood has quickly earned the respect of his players.

"He cares, and it's not just the basketball aspect," Hammonds said. "He wants us to be great young men. He's teaching us things through basketball, but it's life lessons, too."

The offense starts with star point guard Jawun Evans. The sophomore is averaging 20.2 points and 4.6 assists per game. Cowboys forward Jeffrey Carroll is averaging 16.2 points and 7.3 rebounds, while senior captain Phil Forte, one of the best shooters in school history, is the team's No. 3 scorer at 13.1 points per game.

Several freshmen have key roles. Brandon Averette, a backup point guard, averages 7.9 points. Lindy Waters has started 10 games and averages 7.6 points. Thomas Dziagwa shoots 53 percent from 3-point range. Lucas N'Guessan, a 7-foot center from the Netherlands, leads the team with 13 blocks.

"The freshman class is everyday guys," Dziagwa said. "We want to get better. Just try to make little improvements every single day, that's how we see it. We have leaps and bounds to go."

The depth and versatility creates open shots.

"Our attack is just so spread out," Forte said. "We have so many different ways that we can attack our opponent inside and out. Some guys have better strengths than others, so when you put those altogether, I think, offensively, it gives us a very balanced and dangerous attack."

The depth also creates competition and forces veterans to play hard.

"I'm not asking them to play 40 minutes," Underwood said. "I'm not asking them to play 35 minutes. I'm asking them to play as hard as they can and run as hard as they can, and when they don't? Thomas Dziagwa and all those other guys are going to be ready to go."

Underwood likes what he has seen from his team, and he believes it is ready for Big 12 play.

"We've played blue bloods," he said. "We've been beat. We've had to come back after a loss. Played in front of 17,000 at Maryland. Played in front of 15,000 in Wichita. I think we're prepared."

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