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Oklahoma State’s lack of interior depth a concern in Big 12 play

Jan 4, 2014, 8:48 PM EST

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Statistically speaking, the loss of forward Michael Cobbins may not look to be a huge deal for No. 6 Oklahoma State. In 13 games Cobbins was averaging a modest 4.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game before rupturing his Achilles tendon in a win over Robert Morris on Monday night. Cobbins was the team’s fifth-best rebounder, so it’s understandable if some were under the impression that this wasn’t an important personnel loss for the Cowboys.

But in Oklahoma State’s 74-71 loss at Kansas State, the impact of Cobbins’ injury was felt despite the fact that the Cowboys managed to hold their own on the glass.

Kansas State grabbed just one more rebound than the Cowboys but they did manage to rebound 34.1% of their missed shots, a figure slightly higher than the 31.5% that Oklahoma State’s opponents were grabbing to this point in the season. The players who posed the biggest problem for Oklahoma State: Nino Williams and Thomas Gipson, who combined to grab four of Kansas State’s seven offensive rebounds in the second half.

Gipson was especially important down the stretch, as he scored six of his 11 points in the final 4:22. Simply put, Oklahoma State’s lack of interior depth/muscle made things difficult for Travis Ford’s team when it came to stopping Gipson. Cobbins certainly doesn’t have the girth that Gipson possesses, but he’s capable of providing the resistance needed to make things a bit more difficult. Without Cobbins the Cowboys are down a player inside, leaving the majority of the work to Le’Bryan Nash and Kamari Murphy when it comes to defending the bigger front courts of the Big 12.

Six players played 191 of a possible 200 minutes for Oklahoma State on Saturday afternoon, and that’s likely to remain the case as the Cowboys look to win the Big 12. From a rebounding standpoint they’ve got the ability to hang with most teams, as Nash grabbed nine rebounds against K-State and Markel Brown and Marcus Smart are both capable rebounders as well.

The question is whether or not the Cowboys will have enough muscle to defend the deeper front courts of the Big 12, especially if they’re unable to use their perimeter weapons to force mismatches in their favor. Whether or not Travis Ford’s squad can find a positive answer will determine their fate in conference play.