Stillwater, Okla. Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford wants his starters to stop doing things that make them look bad.
Fortunately, his reserves played well enough to make the Cowboys look good Tuesday night.
Jean-Paul Olukemi scored 15 points, Brian Williams came off the bench to score 12 and Oklahoma State overcame a slow start to beat Arkansas-Pine Bluff 73-46 in the opening round of the NIT Season Tip-Off.
"We had some guys come off the bench that really energized our team that I thought really was the difference for us," Ford said. "They all went in there and made plays. They didn't have the mentality of we're more talented and it's just going to happen. They made things happen."
Markel Brown notched his first career double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, and fellow reserve Philip Jurick had seven points, 10 rebounds and five blocks for Oklahoma State. Williams scored eight points during a 10-0 run that gave the Cowboys the lead for good late in the first half, and they put it away with a 9-0 run that pushed the lead to 69-45 on Brown's reverse layup with about 3 minutes left.
"We're a very unselfish team. I think it doesn't matter to us who starts," Jurick said. "Most teams get hyped up about who starts and who doesn't, but with us I think we just worry about who finishes the game and who wins."
The Cowboys will face Texas-San Antonio on Wednesday night in the second round. UTSA beat Oral Roberts 78-77 on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Sei Paye.
Savalace Townsend led Pine Bluff (0-1) with 12 points on 5 for 16 shooting.
The Cowboys (2-0) shot 50 percent in the second half to pull away after trailing by as much as nine in the first half.
Oklahoma State's bench held a 39-3 scoring advantage against their Pine Bluff counterparts, and even outscored the Cowboys' starters 39-34.
"The bench played great. You've got a real good basketball team like they have and good talent, you've got to guard everybody," Pine Bluff coach George Ivory said. "It seemed like we put more effort on just guarding the starters than we did guarding the guys coming off the bench.
"We told them, 'When you're playing a team like this, all of them can play.'"
Olukemi helped the Cowboys pull away, sparking a 10-0 run by hitting a 3-pointer from the right wing and then hanging around in the backcourt to make a steal that led to a reverse layup. He followed it with another reverse layup and, after Reger Dowell hit one of two free throws, Williams bumped the lead to 48-32 with a putback of Jurick's miss.
Pine Bluff never got closer than 12 after that. The Lions shot only 31 percent for the game and finished 3 for 15 from 3-point range. They play their first 11 games on the road and don't play at home until Jan. 14.
Other than Olukemi, Oklahoma State's starters were a combined 7 for 28 from the field. And even Olukemi was guilty of some of the mistakes that left Ford disappointed in his starting five.
Ford said Olukemi broke one play, committing an offensive foul by charging into a defender that a teammate was drawing into the area. Ford said those basic miscues can't happen.
"Not all of our players understand their strengths and weaknesses," he said. "We have players that are doing things that they think are going to make themselves look good when it has the opposite effect. It just makes them look bad."
Daniel Broughton had a strong start inside to get the Lions out to a 15-6 lead, but they managed only nine points over the final 12½ minutes of the first half.
Williams had two 3-pointers and a pair of free throws during a tiebreaking 10-0 run late in the first half before Pine Bluff scored the final three points to get within 31-24 at halftime
"We were out there playing like we were in Pine Bluff, running and executing our stuff and then we started playing for the stats, I guess," Townsend said.
"We started playing a little bit selfish, not team basketball, and that's what got them back in the game."