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Five Thoughts on Oklahoma State’s 66-42 Loss to Iowa State

A bad day turned worse for the Cowboys.



[Devin Wilber/PFB]


The Cowboys had a rough day before even walking into Hilton Coliseum, but it didn’t get much better after they took to the hardwood.

Oklahoma State fell to Iowa State 66-42 on Saturday in Ames. Here are five thoughts from the game.

1. Doomed from the Start

Given the fact that OSU is now 8-8 and 0-3 in Big 12 play, it would’ve been a tough ask for this Cowboy team to go into Hilton Coliseum and get a win regardless, but factors outside OSU’s control made Saturday even tougher.

The Cowboys were set to leave for Ames on Friday but were unable to with weather. That resulted in an early wakeup call that saw the Pokes leave for Oklahoma City at 6 a.m. But then myriad plane issues both in OKC and Norman resulted in OSU not getting to Des Moines until about 3 p.m. Then the Cowboys had to take near-hourlong bus ride to Hilton through something that more resembled Hoth than Iowa.

So, we’re going to get into some of the Cowboys’ poor play — poor play that might’ve happened under normal circumstance but was much more likely to happen given everything the Cowboys went through just to get into the gym.

2. A Particularly Bad Offensive Night

Going into this game, Iowa State ranked second nationally in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency, and it showed.

The 42 points OSU scored Saturday are the fewest the Cowboys have put up since scoring 40 against TCU on Jan. 11 2020. That’s prepandemic — back before we were all watching Tiger King and growing our hair out.

It’s the third-fewest amount of points the Cowboys have put up in a game under Mike Boynton, with the other two coming in that 2019-20 season (in back-to-back games). Here is a zoomed out look at those games:

OSU Score Opponent Season FG% Leading Scorer
40 TCU 2019-20 30%
Isaac Likekele (12)
41 West Virginia 2019-20 29%
Lindy Waters (12)
42 Iowa State 2023-24 32% Eric Dailey (12)

Now, let’s jump into the two most glaring areas of Saturday’s offensive struggles.

3. Too Many Turnovers

The Cowboys turned the ball over 20 times Saturday, resulting in 20 Iowa State points.

Again, the Cyclones are an outstanding defensive team, evident by the fact that the Cyclones produced 13 steals. Steals oftentimes give teams more of an opportunity to score than say a traveling violation or the ball going out of bounds because most times steals lead to teams running and not allowing defenses to get set up properly. The Cyclones would often send a backside trap in the post forcing bigs to turn and rip a crosscourt pass that other defenders were waiting on. As far as defense goes, it was something to behold.

There aren’t a ton of pretty turnovers, but some of the Cowboys’ Saturday were particularly ugly. At one point in the first half, Quion Williams essentially tossed to ball to the guy guarding him atop the key. There was also a stretch in the first half that saw four OSU turnovers between made baskets.

It seemed in the nonconference the Cowboys had taken steps forward in terms of ball movement. The Cowboys averaged 16.7 assists and 13.2 turnovers a game in nonconference play. Through three Big 12 games, those assist total have been cut in half, as the Pokes are averaging just eight a game while still committing 13.3 turnovers a game.

4. Shots Not Falling

Along with the 20 turnovers OSU had, the Cowboys shot a season-low 32% from the field. The Cowboys’ previous season-low came when they shot 36% in their tight loss to Notre Dame.

So, when the Cowboys weren’t giving the ball to the Cyclones, they were missing shots. There was a scoreless stretch of 6:24 in the first half — that same stretch that featured four OSU turnovers between baskets — that saw the Cowboys go 0-for-6 from the field. Well, the Cowboys outdid themselves in the second half, missing seven straight shots during a stretch. The Cowboys at least hit a pair of free throws in their 0-for-7 from the field streak.

Speaking of free throws, OSU was just 5-for-14 (36%) from the line Saturday. That was probably the most glaring example that the Cowboys had spent all day traveling. The Cowboys aren’t a great free-throw shooting team, but when John-Michael Wright (an 84% free-throw shooter in his time at OSU) goes 0-for-2, it was fairly evident nothing could go right for the Pokes in Iowa.

Poor shooting is a theme up and down the box score. The only two Cowboys to shoot at or above 40% were Eric Dailey Jr. (12 points on 57% shooting), Jarius Hicklen (six points on 67% shooting) and John-Michael Wright (five points on 40% shooting). Here is a look at everyone else:

Bryce Thompson — seven points, 3-for-8, 38%
Quion Williams — zero points, 0-for-4, 0%
Javon Small — eight points, 3-for-11, 27%
Brandon Garrison — one point, 0-for-2, 0%
Connor Dow — zero points, 0-for-2, 0%
Jamyron Keller — one point, 0-for-1, 0%
Justin McBride — two points, 1-for-3, 33%
Mike Marsh — zero points, 0-for-1, 0%

Playing that game on that travel schedule was an impossible task that the Cowboys made look impossible.

5. Already in Last

Oklahoma State is alone in last place in the Big 12 just three games into the conference season.

BYU and West Virginia each won their first league game of the season Saturday, leaving the Cowboys as the only team without a conference win. That shows the competitiveness of the Big 12 that 13 teams already have a conference win, but it also shows that things aren’t going to get any easier for the Cowboys.

OSU basketball is in a rough spot. Social media continues to get loud over Boynton’s job status, and a 42-point outing — regardless of circumstance — isn’t going to let up on that.

The Oklahoman‘s Scott Wright dove into Boynton’s buyout earlier this week.  It would cost OSU just under $8 million to part ways with Boynton before April and $6.67 million after April 1. If OSU Athletic Director Chad Weiberg wanted to make a move and you’re a donor who has such funds, would you rather pay out a basketball contract or spend money on football NIL? Welcome to the new world of college athletics.

There is also a world where Boynton and Co. turn this around. This is a young group — starting two true freshmen and a true sophomore. There are talented pieces on this squad, and when it’s going well, you can see how good it can look. If they can stick together (something that happens less and less in this transfer portal era), this group ought to be better next year and be darn good the year after.

But for now, this group is 14th of 14 in a league that isn’t going anywhere in terms of toughness. The Jayhawks come to town next, for goodness sake.

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