There was something to be learned from the 15 or so line drills that the Arkansas-Pine Bluff men's basketball team ran — just to begin Thursday's practice.

There was something to be learned from the 15 or so line drills that the Arkansas-Pine Bluff men’s basketball team ran — just to begin Thursday’s practice.

“In order to play a good-sized game, you have to keep your guys healthy, in shape,” coach George Ivory said.

The last time Ivory’s Golden Lions took the floor in a game, they had to go 45 minutes against Philander Smith to pull out an 84-80 victory. That was just an exhibition.

When UAPB begins the season tonight at Oklahoma State, the Lions have to prevent the Cowboys from turning the game into an exhibition — and seek to give the Preseason National Invitation Tournament a first-round shocker.

Ivory, who’ll start his fourth season at the helm tonight, said the Lions took from the Philander Smith game an ability to finish strong and keep up the intensity. UAPB will get plenty of defensive intensity from Oklahoma State, which benefited from 20 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi turnovers and committed just six of its own in Friday’s 71-39 season-opening win. The Cowboys made 11 steals — including four by Fred Gulley and three by fellow guard Jean-Paul Olukemi.

The Cowboys also held the Islanders to 11 first-half points and 32.7 percent shooting from the floor.

“If we can take care of the ball, we think it’ll be a pretty good ballgame,” Ivory said.

Ivory said the Cowboys’ guards are their nucleus and likes the matchup between both teams’ backcourts. Two of Oklahoma State’s double-digit scorers from Friday, Le’Bryan Nash (13 points) and Olukemi (11), are starting guards.

“They’re talented guards,” UAPB guard Savalace Townsend said. “For us, it’s using our strength to our advantage. They have to defend us also.”

Townsend scored 28 points and forward Daniel Broughton poured in 25 to lead UAPB past Philander Smith. The Lions are looking for their frontcourt to rise to the occasion in the absence of returning starter Terrell Kennedy, who will be sidelined for at least three more weeks with a broken pinkie finger.

Forwards Lavoris Weathers and Jamar Harris have done a great job on the low blocks in preparation for Oklahoma State, Ivory said.

UAPB also has a dubious streak to end tonight. The Lions have lost 26 straight nonconference games, dating back to a 64-62 win over SMU on Dec. 17, 2008, when Townsend was a freshman.

‘We’ve been staring at this game (against Oklahoma State) for a long time,” Townsend said. “I’m just driven because it’s a normal game. I’m just driven to play basketball.”