The beat was definitely on at Oklahoma State last week. The Cowboys led off by handing Kansas its worst loss in 25 years with an 86-53 drubbing on Feb. 7 in Stillwater. That prompted Jay-hawks coach Roy Williams to say, "I was totally outcoached in every way, and we were totally manhandled on the court." On Saturday, Oklahoma State blew a 20-point first-half lead and had its two top scorers, Mason and 6'10" senior forward Brian Montonati, in foul trouble for most of the second half but held on for the win to maintain a share of first place in the Big 12, with Iowa State. The Cowboys ran their overall record to 20-2 and their league mark to 9-1. 'We're a complete team that can beat you in a lot of ways," Mason says. "Now we have some momentum going."
A big reason for that momentum is that the 6'5" Mason has evolved into a complete player. When he arrived at Oklahoma State three years ago, he was good at swooping to the basket for dunks, but his outside shooting was lackluster. He made only 32.7% of his three-pointers as a freshman but through Sunday he was making 47.5% this year and was third in the Big 12 in scoring, with a 19.0-point average.
He's getting plenty of help from the rest of a Cowboys roster that includes six seniors among its top eight players. Oklahoma State's three leading scorers—Mason, Montonati and Alexander—were shooting a combined 52.1% from the floor. Most important, after several years of a generosity on defense uncharacteristic of Eddie Sutton-coached teams, the Cowboys once again were leading the conference in field-goal-percentage defense (37.6%) and three-point-percentage defense (29.6%).
One player who hasn't had much practice celebrating his three-point shooting is senior point guard Doug Gottlieb, who was leading the nation in assists with a 9.0 average but had made just six treys all season. During Oklahoma State's first possession on Saturday, Sooners fans taunted him by screaming "Shoot!" as soon as he touched the ball. Gottlieb responded by swishing an 18-foot two-pointer and then gleefully holding his finger to his lips to hush the crowd as he ran back on defense. He didn't make any of the five other field goals he attempted in the game, but the Cowboys still made their point. As Adkins might put it, Oklahoma State is in a rhythm now, and the rest of the league better watch out.
Temple's Hot Streak
The Owls Are Looking Wiser
Temple senior point guard Juan (Pepe) Sanchez averages only 63 points per game, but probably no college player is more critical to his team's success than he is. Early this season, when Sanchez sat out eight games with a badly sprained right ankle, the Owls lost three times. Since his return, Temple has won 12 of 13 games, including a 73-65 victory over No. 22 Maryland on Sunday. The Owls are averaging 6.9 more assists and 3.4 more steals and allowing 12.8 fewer points a game with Sanchez in the lineup. "Without him I'm not sure they're a Top 25 team," says Rhode Island coach Jerry DeGregorio. "With him I think they're a potential Final Four team."
Sanchez says that he concentrates so hard during games that he sometimes suffers intense headaches, but the results speak for themselves. He has a stellar 4.6-to-l assist-turnover ratio and would have ranked fifth in the nation in assists (8.1) and steals (3.8) through Sunday if he'd played enough games to qualify. (By season's end he could have enough to be included in the rankings.) Already Temple's alltime steals leader, Sanchez is the linchpin of the Owls' draconian matchup zone, which at week's end had held foes to a nation's low 53.8 points per game.
Sanchez's Achilles' heel is his 30.9% shooting, which prompted Fordham coach Bob Hill to instruct his defense to leave Sanchez open on the perimeter during last Thursday's game with the Rams. Hill looked like a genius when Sanchez missed his first five three-pointers, but Pepe recovered to sink his next six treys while scoring a season-high 20 points in a 75-61 victory. "Ill score if I have to, but I don't want to take that many shots," says Sanchez, who averages only 6.7 attempts per game. "Fm afraid my teammates will hate me."
Sanchez looks almost sheepish as he confesses that while growing up in Bah�a Blanca, Argentina, he was a shameless gunner who once scored 104 points in a club tournament game as an 11-year-old. He never even played point guard until he joined Argentina's junior national team at 16 and discovered the fun in fundamentals. It's a testament to his grasp of the game that coach John Chaney offered him a scholarship solely on the basis of five minutes of game tape during which Sanchez never launched a shot. "Pepe has this special ability to unscramble a game with his eyes," Chaney says. "He's one of those players like Larry Bird who sees the game in slow motion."
Sanchez, whose nickname derives from a Clouseau-like Argentinian comic-book detective named Pepe Sanchez, appears to play the game in slow motion as well, dictating a Temple tempo that on Sunday tranquilized Maryland's powerful offense. The Terps ended up scoring 12 points fewer than their average. After that victory, in which Owls forward Lament Barnes scored 23 points and swingman Mark Karcher added 18, Chaney said the game's MVP was a player who made one basket, took four shots and scored five points. Sanchez also had 11 assists and a career-high nine steals but only three turnovers against Maryland's pressing defense. "All that pressure really tired out my brain," Sanchez said afterward. "This was a four- Advil game."