Oklahoma State was far from scintillating last night, but the Cowboys had too much "Big Country" (Bryant Reeves) inside, too many athletes on the wings, and an opponent in Drexel that failed miserably shooting the ball.
The Cowboys struggled through an ugly first half, but after regrouping to take a nine-point lead at the break, they quickly established their dominance early in the second half, then flattened the smaller, slower Dragons, 73-49, in a first-round East Regional game at the Baltimore Arena.
The victory sends Oklahoma State (24-9) into tomorrow's second-round contest against Alabama.
"It wasn't a thing of beauty. I was impressed with Drexel's defense. They did a good job keeping the ball out of Reeves' and Randy's hands," said Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton, referring to guard Randy Rutherford.
"But our defense was very good. Offensively, I thought it was pretty ugly. They are a well-coached team, but we just had too many soldiers."
It took the Cowboys about 20 minutes to warm up, which is the only reason Drexel was able to hang around early. The Dragons missed their first 10 shots, committed 13 turnovers in the first half, and managed only 19 points in 40 first-half possessions. For a while, it looked as if Drexel might not top its 39-point performance in a first-round exit against Temple last year.
But Oklahoma State failed to put the Dragons away early, as the Cowboys managed nine points in the game's first 10 minutes, and even trailed 14-13 with eight minutes to go in the first half.
"Probably the ugliest basketball I've ever seen was the start of the game," Reeves said. "I didn't play very well at all. We wanted to start the game on fire. Getting out early is something we've got to work on. Our defense is what got us going."
The Cowboys gradually asserted themselves by taking a 28-19 halftime lead, then put away the Dragons with a 15-5 run to open the second half. Reeves scored eight of his game-high 21 points during that run, which put the Cowboys on top 43-24 with 13:32 left.
Reeves, the 7-foot, 290-pound center who is the Big Eight Player of the Year, also grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds and hit all nine of his free throws before fouling out with 4:53 left.
Rutherford added 16 points for the Cowboys. Forward Ricky Pierce scored 13 points.
Center Malik Rose scored 17 points and grabbed a game-high 18 rebounds for Drexel (22-8).
The Dragons hit only 17 of 67 shots (25.4 percent) and converted only three field goals in the first 10 minutes of the second half.
The teams earned no style points in the early going, as they sank to startling depths of offensive futility, drawing boos from the crowd.
The Dragons missed their first 10 shots, threw in five turnovers, ,, went scoreless for the first 7:30, and didn't convert their first basket until 11:22 remained in the half, when Holden hit a three-pointer.
But that was still good enough to pull Drexel within 7-5. The Cowboys had their own problems on offense. They managed to take a 4-0 lead five minutes into the game, when Reeves hit a short turnaround shot on the baseline, and led only 9-5 after an 18-footer by Pierce with a little over 11 minutes left.
Drexel, with Holden staying hot on the wing -- he scored 11 in the half, mostly on three three-pointers -- pulled to 9-8 on Holden's three, then took a 10-9 lead on a layup by Rose. The Dragons then took a 14-13 lead on a steal and layup by Jeff Myers with 7:58 to go.