Oklahoma State had been off for 10 days since a strong performance in a 72-70 loss to Florida on Dec. 19, and coach Travis Ford wasn't sure what to expect from his team against Missouri-Kansas City on Tuesday night.
As it turned out, the Cowboys were a little sloppy, but their strong defense and balanced offensive attack -- with four players scoring in double digits -- lifted them to a 61-43 victory over the Kangaroos.
"I really thought we were playing our best basketball in our last three games," Ford said. "For a team that was trying to find our identity and figure out its roles, and I thought we had done it, it had me concerned. We weren't the sharpest, it was a little sloppy. We did some good things, we did some negative things."
Jeff Newberry scored 11 points with seven rebounds, Jawun Evans had 11 points and six rebounds, and Tyree Griffin had 11 points for the Cowboys (8-4). Jeffrey Carroll scored 10 points and made two blocks.
Leading the way defensively for Oklahoma State was Anthony Allen, who blocked six shots.
"Its identity needs to be `total team," Ford said of his squad. "There are no superstars. We are the definition of `everybody's going to have to chip in, everybody's going to have to do their part.' You see that tonight. We had scoring from just about everybody and we're going to need that."
LaVell Boyd and Dashawn King each scored 12 points to lead UMKC (7-7), which shot just 30 percent from the floor (15 of 50) in losing its third straight.
UMKC scored the first five points of the second half to pull to within 26-23, but the Cowboys responded with a 10-2 run over the next six minutes to restore a double-digit lead.
The Kangaroos answered with a 7-0 run to make it 36-32 when Boyd connected on a 3-pointer with 12:15 remaining.
Kansas City got as close as 39-36 after Broderick Newbill's basket with 11:03 left, but the Cowboys responded with a 15-2 run over the next eight minutes, a span in which the Kangaroos missed eight consecutive shots from the floor.
"We went through a four- or five-minute stretch with the team that was in there just wasn't defending," Ford said. "I took them out and put Anthony Allen back in there to protect the rim, and he changed the game, I thought, defensively for us."
The teams combined to miss their first seven shots before UMKC's Darius Austin hit a jumper after 2:40 had elapsed. Oklahoma State scored the next 11 points to go up 11-2 after Allen's dunk with 7:55 gone, at which point the Kangaroos were 1 for 11 from the floor.
The Cowboys continued their strong defense, holding UMKC to just 3-of-21 shooting while building a 22-10 lead with 4:06 left in the opening half. The Kangaroos finally came alive after that, using a 7-0 run over the next 2:12 to pull to within five following Newbill's layup.
After Evans scored his first points on a layup as time expired, Oklahoma State took a 26-18 advantage into halftime.
UMKC fell to 1-4 on the season against Power 5 Conference teams, having beaten Mississippi State 72-67 on Dec. 12. The Kangaroos, who play out of the WAC, have never defeated Oklahoma State in eight attempts and are 13-76 all-time against Power 5 schools.
Oklahoma State entered the day leading the Big 12 and ranking 15th in the nation with a 76.4 free throw shooting percentage, but the Cowboys shot just 2 for 7 in the first half. Leyton Hammonds came in topping the Big 12 with a 95.5 percentage from the line (21 of 22), but missed his first three attempts and finished 1 of 4 for the night. Overall, OSU shot just 12 of 22 on free throws (54.5 percent).
Griffin became the seventh different Cowboy to share in the team scoring lead in a game this season. "I thought Tyree made some big shots," Ford said. "It was one of his better games and he bailed us out a couple of times." . UMKC's Martez Harrison, last year's WAC Player of the Year, entered the game as the Kangaroos' leading scorer, ranking fifth in the WAC with 15.2 points per game, while his 4.8 assists per contest was tied for third in the conference. He shot 0 for 5 from the floor, finishing with a season-low 1 point, along with three assists, a steal and two turnovers in 26 minutes.
UMKC plays its fourth straight road game when it visits USC-Upstate on Saturday.
Oklahoma State opens its Big 12 schedule on Saturday at home against TCU.