Connect with us


Five Thoughts on Oklahoma State’s 64-59 Loss to Abilene Christian




[Devin Wilber/PFB]


STILLWATER — For the first time since 1974, the Cowboys have lost their first home game of the season.

Oklahoma State fell to Abilene Christian 64-59 in Gallagher-Iba Arena to start the season 0-1. It’s the first time the Pokes have lost a season-opener on their home floor since Dwight D. Eisenhower was president in 1957.

The Cowboys looked out of sync early before things got downright ugly, as OSU fell behind by as many as 18 points before fighting back and almost winning. Here are five thoughts on the game.

1. Another Year, Another Mid-Major Loss

For the third straight year, Oklahoma State has dropped an early season game to a mid-major foe. But this one might’ve felt the worst of them all with OSU trailing by as many as 18 points.

The rather unfortunate streak started in the 2021-22 season with a 56-55 loss to Oakland. Then in 2022-23, the Pokes fell 61-60 to Southern Illinois.

When the Cowboys were down 18 about midway through the second half Monday night, there was a point where the faith-filled 5,084 in attendance were praying for only a one-point loss.

The past few years have taught the Pokes that an early season loss like this is tough on the NET ranking that is so pivotal to NCAA Tournament selection. After being team No. 69 last season — the first team out of the NCAA Tournament — this is certainly not the way the Pokes wanted to start the year.

“I feel first and foremost our fans deserve an apology,” Boynton said. “That was not a performance worthy of their commitment and support and what we’ve asked of them to come out and cheer for us. My apology’s to our fans for what they had to watch tonight because that was not very good basketball by us.

“Then, obviously, it starts with me. As the head coach, I’m responsible for how we perform, our ability to execute. We didn’t do the things necessary to win tonight.”

2. One Excuse to Note, Do with It What You Will

I don’t think this is an excuse good enough for a mid-major team to beat the Cowboys, but there are two scholarship point guards on the Cowboys’ roster. They were without them both Monday night.

Boynton has had strong praise for East Carolina transfer Javon Small this offseason, calling him perhaps the most impactful player the Cowboys have brought in since Cade Cunningham. Small missed half of last season with a knee injury and has been out the early part of the year with what Boynton called “knee maintenance.” Boynton hasn’t given a timetable on Small but said he doesn’t think it will be long.

If Small lives up to that billing, which admittedly is quite the ask, maybe this team does look entirely different with him playing. With that being said, Small had nothing to do with OSU missing 12 free throws, and while he is a good rebounder for his size, I don’t know that him playing makes up for the fact that OSU went even on the glass with a team picked fifth in the WAC.

Boynton did not elect to use Small’s absence as an excuse.

“Tonight, at the end of the day, we just didn’t do it well enough,” Boynton said, “and I’m not gonna let Javon not being able to play today be enough of a reason for us to not to get the job done.”

Maybe Small is this team’s Ollie Gordon and things will all of a sudden turn around when he plays meaningful minutes. Maybe.

3. Shooting Still an Issue

The Cowboys were a dreadful 8-for-20 from the foul line Monday night, and no OSU player shot better than 50% from the foul line.

After back-to-back seasons of sub-70% foul shooting, starting the year at 40% is less than ideal, especially when this should be a better-shooting team based on the team’s makeup.

Boynton said every player made 10 foul shots in a row before leaving practice Sunday night and that there are days where he makes them make 500 foul shots. But for some reason when the lights are on and the makes and misses count, the Cowboys have struggled mightily as of late to knock them down.

But the woeful shooting didn’t stop at the line. The Cowboys were 5-for-21 (22%) from 3-point range. Much of the Cowboys’ roster refresh this offseason revolved around shooting better from 3.

Connor Dow, who we’ll get to, held up his end of that, going 3-for-7 from deep. But outside of Dow, OSU was just 2-for-16 (13%).

4. Bryce Thompson’s Foul-Line Struggles Continue

Bryce Thompson was keeping Oklahoma State in the game down the stretch, but he continues to struggle from the foul line.

Thompson finished with a team-high 19 points, hitting tough shot after tough shot in the second half. He put up 12 in the second half by himself, going 5-for-9 from the field and 1-for-2 from 3-point range. He scored 10 of OSU’s final 14 points.

But he was 2-for-7 from the free-throw line.

It’s a curious case to say the least. Thompson is an improved 3-point shooter, shooting a solid 37% last season, but he butters his bread in the midrange and always has. So it makes it all the more perplexing that and uncontested midrange shot (aka a free throw) is Thompson’s biggest kryptonite.

Credit to Thompson, he took accountability and didn’t back down from answering for his free-throw mishaps.

“Me personally, I don’t know — I’m going to get it figured out, though,” Thompson said. “I’m going to get with my dad, and we’re going to get it figured out, but that’s just for me. And we work on them. Coach makes us shoot them every day after practice, and we make them. But it doesn’t matter. We gotta come out in the game when it matters and knock them down.”

5. Connor Dow Seems Legit

In an abyss of intergalactic darkness, sharpshooting freshman Connor Dow was a beam of light off in the distance.

Dow made three of OSU’s five 3-point attempts, scoring nine points in 21 minutes on the floor. He hit back-to-back 3s midway through the second half to pull the Cowboys back within single digits of the Wildcats.

He is more than a shooter, too. He is a capable defender and finished with three rebounds, an assist and a pair of steals. He was also a team-best plus-five in plus/minus.

“He’s going to find his way on the court,” Boynton said. “He plays with great confidence. He’s gotta get better defensively, we know that, and we gotta continue to work with him on that area.”

Most Read