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Bring your own energy: Cowboys learning to play with fewer fans

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Cowboy Basketball First Official Practice

Image Taken At Cowboy Basketball First Official Practice, Gallagher-Iba Arena, Wednesday, October 14, 2020, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK. Courtney Bay/OSU Athletics

Normally, the fans bring the rowdy to Gallagher-Iba Arena, but this year, things are different.

With the COVID-19 restrictions in sports, there will certainly be no full crowds this season. The crowd plays a big role in every basketball game, and with little to no fans, Oklahoma State is having to adjust.

“The better the environment in the building is, most of the time, the more engaged the guys are,” coach Mike Boynton said. “I have no doubt we’re gonna play a game at a place where there won’t be any fans, but we still have to play with the same level of focus and energy, and we can’t rely on the crowd to pick us up.”

Learning to play without fans is easier said than done, but Boynton feels it is essential to do so. Although it isn’t easy, the change starts in practice.

“In practice, if we don’t come out clapping or with energy, [Boynton] might start practice over or he might start the drill over,” senior guard Bryce Williams said. “If practice is an hour and we don’t bring the energy, it’s gonna be two hours.”

One way that Boynton is trying to increase the energy happens before practice, and it involves the players’ reversible practice jerseys.

Before every practice, the players get split up into two teams, the black team or the white team. The players flip their jerseys to the color they are that day, and the battle begins.

“When we go on the court if I got on black and you got on white, I’m not even talking to you,” Williams said. “We’re all just in our zone.”

During practice, the intensity is sky-high. Players yell, argue and get physical, especially during the scrimmage at the end of practice.

No matter the teams, energy plays a major factor.

“Energy is really the biggest thing for us,” freshman forward Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe said. “Whichever team is bringing energy that day, nine times out of 10, that’s the team that’s gonna win.”

When the Cowboys play their home opener against Oakland on Dec. 5, the lesser attendance will be difficult for both the fans and the team.

“There’s no doubt there’s a bittersweet feeling to going into this season with all this excitement,” Boynton said. “Knowing that we have the chance to get as close to 13,611 on a consistent basis as we have in my entire time here, that’s disappointing for our fans and for our guys.”