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Breaking Down the Numbers Behind Oklahoma State’s Recent Struggles in Clutch Time

The Cowboys’ two recent near-misses have included a worrying trend of the Cowboys being unable to close.

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[Devin Wilber/PFB]

STILLWATER — After getting blown out in three straight games, the Cowboys have played their past two opponents tight, only to collapse late.

Oklahoma State is 0-6 in Big 12 play to this point, being the only league team without at least two wins. The Cowboys’ two recent near-misses have included a worrying trend of the Cowboys being unable to close.

In the final five minutes of both games, the Cowboys went a combined 1-for-10 from the field. But perhaps more worrying than OSU’s inability to score late, the Pokes allowed Kansas State and TCU to go a combined 7-for-10 in the final five minutes of those games and unfettered access to the rim.

All of that has led OSU to being outscored a combined 25-11 in the final five minutes of those games. A minus-14 point differential seems significant considering OSU lost those games by a combined nine points.

“We’re getting the shots from the guys that they normally take, honestly,” Boynton said. “We got (Jarius) Hicklen a wide-open 3. We got Bryce (Thompson) a wide-open 3 at K-State. We’ve taken a couple tough ones off the dribble, and part of it is the fluidity of the possessions, trying to manage going early vs. using some clock, getting the ball from side to side because it’s hard score on the first side against these teams.

“But then you gotta play with more force late in the clock, and we tend to settle from a few too many contested jump shots.”

The Cowboys have undeniably been a better offensive team this season than they were last year. For starters, the Cowboys are averaging 71.9 points a game compared to the 68.3 last season. OSU is also shooting 36% from 3, ranking sixth in the Big 12. The Pokes shot 31% from deep last season, which tied for a league-worst.

But in the final five minutes against Kansas State and TCU, OSU was 0-for-4 from deep in both games. A complaint I see frequently on Twitter or in our message boards is that the Cowboys are chucking up too many 3s at the end of games. Is that real or a myth? Well, OSU shot 27 3s in both of those games. So, the Cowboys averaged 0.66 3-point attempts a minute in the first 35 minutes of those games and 0.8 3-point attempts a minute in the final five. Definitely an increase, but the number is so small it’s hard to slam any hard opinions on it.

What could better be argued is that the Cowboys aren’t getting to the rim as much in those final stretches. Against Kansas State, OSU was credited with 18 layup or dunk attempts but had only one in the final five minutes. So, the Cowboys went from averaging 0.49 a layups/dunks in the first 35 minutes to 0.2 in the final five minutes. Tuesday’s game against TCU told a similar tale.

Now, some of that could be explained away with possessions slowing down in the final stretch, but K-State and TCU each had three layup or dunk attempts in the final five minutes of those games while shooting less than half of the 3-pointers the Cowboys did. Combined, the Wildcats and Horned Frogs went 5-for-6 (83%) at the rim in the final five minutes to OSU’s combined 1-for-2 (50%). In total, OSU has been outscored 262-136 in the paint in Big 12 play.

“We’ve just gotta figure out how to protect the paint a little bit better,” Boynton said. “We’re doing a pretty good job defending the 3, but teams are exposing us inside. That’s an area we thought we’d have challenges in. Probably need to get Mike (Marsh) some more run in there, just for some physicality, but it’s really just keeping the ball out of the paint as much as possible.”

In the past two games, the only OSU field goal to go in during the final five minutes was a Javon Small layup against Kansas State. Maybe the Cowboys need turn down some 3-point looks in clutch time. They probably need to try to get to the rim more. They definitely need to defend better. But, they also need to simply hit some shots.

“Just making shots — sometimes in those stretches, we do get good looks,” Bryce Thompson said. “Sometimes we do get open shots, we do get mildly contested layups that we can finish. I think that’s just on us as the players to knock those shots down.”

OSU in the Final Five Minutes (Combined)

FG 3FG FT Layups/Dunks Turnovers
OSU 1-for-10 0-for-8 9-for-14 1-for-2 2
K-State/TCU 7-for-10 1-for-3 9-for-14 5-for-6 0

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