Most of the buzz surrounding Oklahoma State’s second consecutive top-20 road win centered around Lindy Waters’ late-game heroics or the Cowboys making 11 of 17 shots to end the game, or five of their last six. But it was Cameron McGriff’s huge first half that got the Pokes going and set them up for a big finish in Morgantown.
Around the midway point of the opening period, Oklahoma State found itself in a 3-plus minute scoring drought and down 15-9 to the Mountaineers’ increasingly lively Morgantown crowd who had only been silenced twice all season.
Enter the Crime Dog.
Starting with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer followed by an old-fashioned 3-point play, McGriff literally took over the game. He gobbled up rebounds and loose balls, he got to the line, he defended. The true sophomore scored the Cowboys’ next dozen points and led his own 12-5 run over the next five minutes.
It was the best half of basketball of his career and it came when his team desperately needed a jolt in a hostile environment.
“So, in the first half, he certainly was the guy that kept us within striking distance,” said Mike Boytnon, “even though we didn’t play a great half of basketball.”
McGriff’s athleticism has never been in question, but his consistency was. Whether it was due to inexperience or Boynton figuring out his rotations, there were chunks of time — sometimes whole games — when McGriff was a no-show.
But when do-it-all wing Tavarius Shine went out with a wrist injury in Bedlam, Boynton leaned much more heavily on his sophomore and McGriff answered the call in a big way.
Let’s take a look at his last four games.
|Minutes||Points||Off. Reb||Total Reb||Blocks||Steals|
|First 21 Games||20.2||7.0||1.8||4.9||0.3||0.7|
|Last 4 Games||33||14.0||3.0||4.8||2.0||2.0|
The numbers represent a night-and-day contrast in both consistency and efficiency. The highlights include a pair of career-best 20-point games in coups in Lawrence and Morgantown.
“Yeah, I mean, that’s who McGriff has been for about three weeks for us now,” said Boynton. “He played probably a little bit better than he played today a week ago in Lawrence.
“He’s becoming more consistent at that, someone we can count on.”
That consistency was displayed with McGriff’s 13-for-13 showing at the charity stripe. He leads the Cowboys and is fourth in the Big 12 in free throw percentage. But before Saturday, his season high in free throws attempted was eight against Houston Baptist all the way back in November. He made all of them.
With McGriff’s SportsCenter Top-10 potential, his physicality and his ability to knock down the free ones, the more aggressive the better for the sophomore.
McGriff cooled off in the second half, going 0 for 2 from the field as his teammates caught fire. But he continued the dirty work, grabbing three defensive boards and helping to limit West Virginia on the offensive glass in the final frame.
That advantage gave the Cowboys a chance according to Boynton who credited McGriff for “leading the charge” in that area.
He’s also shown advanced leadership for an underclassmen, even pulling teammates aside recently and addressing a lack of energy he noticed. When you put forth the effort McGriff does, you can get away with that.
McGriff has gone from raw talent to realized potential in just a few short weeks. In conference play, he’s usurped Mitchell Solomon as Oklahoma State’s leader in win shares (0.9) and leads the team in win shares per 40 minutes (1.22).
With the sun setting on Solomon’s career, Mike Boynton needs someone to continue the dirty work moving forward. McGriff can fill that role and more. He has the skill set to be a consistent scorer, the team’s best rebounder and a physical defender. And the occasional binge-worthy slam couldn’t hurt either.