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They're runnin' and gunnin'
John Garrity
February 16, 1981
Oklahoma State's Cowboys, erstwhile plodders, are currently blazin' away
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February 16, 1981

They're Runnin' And Gunnin'

Oklahoma State's Cowboys, erstwhile plodders, are currently blazin' away

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Clark, a mere 6'3" but rock-hard, quick and twisty, creates the most difficulty for opponents. A center at Oklahoma City's Southeast High, where he was the state's high school Player of the Year in 1978, Clark expected to perform strictly at guard for the Cowboys, which is where he plays on defense. On offense, however, Hansen positions him at the high post with the 6'7" Combs stationed low. When Clark takes the ball in the lane against a zone, he has an uncanny knack for slithering between opposing giants to score baskets, draw fouls or drop off passes to the forwards for layups.

Clark swears he has a jump shot, but Cowboy fans are still waiting to see it. He gets his 18.4 points a game from eight feet in and from the foul line. "Against teams that have zoned us, we've scored 85 to 100 points every time," says Hansen. When opponents try to play Clark man-to-man with a quick guard, he simply takes his defender low.

Mostly, though, the Cowboys run.

"I've been influenced by Mr. Iba, but I've expanded," says Hansen, who played his college ball at Oklahoma City. "The excitement of the game is in the fast break, and it's the game I like."

"Nowadays, you can't play Mr. Iba's style of basketball and expect to recruit," says Ballard. "Kids today want to run and jump and score." Besides, Oklahoma is not that rich in the tall high school talent needed to play a slower power game. "In this state you've got the wheat fields and the moonshine and a lot of cotton—but not that many people" says Hansen.

The recruitment of speedy point guards Hannon, an Iowa junior college star, and Ohio freshman Tracy Penn opened up the Oklahoma State fast break but bumped three-year starter Randy Wright, the Cowboys' career assist leader, into a reserve role. That could have caused problems, but Wright is happier as sixth man on a winning team than he was quarterbacking a loser. "The last couple of years we had players who were always griping," he says. "But there's none of that now."

Early success hasn't turned the Cowboys' heads. "The last few games are going to be something fierce," predicts Hansen, whose charges face a Big Eight stretch drive in which they must play four of six games on the road. Missouri and Nebraska proved that the Cowboys can be had away from home. The Tigers out-muscled Oklahoma State 92-77 on Jan. 28, and last week Nebraska took advantage of Clark's sprained right ankle—he played only 11 minutes, scored only seven points—to win 62-54. So far, though, the Cowboys have dodged arrows well enough to guarantee their first winning season since Iba's retirement in 1970.

"People ask why we haven't done well the last 10 years," says Iba. "Well, we had some reverses because I didn't do a good job recruiting my last four years." When asked why he had let down, Iba smiles. "Maybe I'm stubborn," he says. "Maybe I didn't want to recruit that hard. Or maybe I just didn't want to tell lies to some kids. I didn't leave the program as good as I found it, and we kind of lost the tradition.

"But now they've got a fine bunch of young men, and I'm so happy for them. Hey, they've got everybody around here jumpin' and goin'!"

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