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Five Thoughts on Oklahoma State’s 66-64 Loss to Notre Dame

Different day, same result.



[Devin Wilber/PFB]


The Cowboys’ rally to force overtime ended up being just a cruel way to have the orange-clad faithful watch another ugly five minutes of hoops.

Oklahoma State fell to Notre Dame 66-64 in overtime of the consolation game at the Legends Classic in Brooklyn. The Cowboys ended the event having lost two games by the same score and return to Stillwater with a 1-3 record. It’s the first time the Cowboys have started 1-3 since the 1987-88 season under Leonard Hamilton. Here are five thoughts from the game.

1. A Step-Back 3?

The Cowboys trailed 63-62 with time dwindling down and OSU’s offense broke down, as it seems to do from time to time. With 11 seconds left, Javon Small was forced to step back on the left wing and heave up a 3-point attempt. It didn’t go in, and was far from an ideal look for a would-be game winner.

Given Small’s game, which we’ll get to, the ball was justifiably in his hands, but when OSU needed a basket, the best look the Cowboys could get was a step-back 3.

It was an ugly way to end an ugly performance — a third ugly performance in a four-game season.

2. Small Put His Team on His Back, but the Cowboys Were Too Heavy

Javon Small did all he could, but he couldn’t drag the Cowboys’ carcass across the finish line ahead of Notre Dame.

Small scored 21 of OSU’s 30 points in the second half, including a stretch where Small scored 16 straight for the Cowboys over about a seven-minute stretch.

Small was 6-for-10 from the field in the second half. He was 4-for-4 from 3-point range and 5-for-5 from the foul line. The rest of the Cowboys? They were 2-for-16 from the field in the second half while going 0-for-8 from 3 and 5-for-8 from the line.

A transfer from East Carolina, Small finished with a 29-point, 10-rebound double-double. It was his first point-rebound double-double of his career. He did just about all he could outside of a that contested 3-point heave dropping at the end.

3. The Hits Don’t Stop Coming

Here is a quick breakdown of where the Cowboys’ roster is at right now:

Injured: Bryce Thompson, Isaiah Miranda, Mike Marsh, Jamyron Keller
True freshmen: Eric Dailey Jr., Brandon Garrison, Connor Dow, Justin McBride, Jamyron Keller

So, active players with any sort of college experience are:

Small — a transfer from East Carolina who missed half of last season and some of the preseason with a knee injury.
Jarius Hicklen — a transfer from North Florida who is now 4-for-16 from 3 as a Cowboy thus far.
Quion Williams — a true sophomore who is playing about as well as one could ask.
John-Michael Wright — in his second year with the program after transferring from High Point.

Thompson and Marsh are new additions to the injury report. Thompson missed all but one minute in the second half in OSU’s loss to St. Bonaventure, while Marsh played a full game against the Bonnies.

Through that lens, it kind of makes sense why Small was asked to carry the scoring load, but the Cowboys need to find some scoring elsewhere regardless of Thompson’s status moving forward. If Thompson and Small are your two leading scorers, who is that third guy going to be? Dailey? He had three points Friday. Wright? He had 11, but has continued to struggle from 3 this season and is now 6-for-26 from deep on the year.

Consistency is needed. It makes sense that, especially at this point in the year, the freshmen wouldn’t be finished products, but if this team is going to amount to anything, it needs people to step up sooner rather than later.

4. Better, but Still Costly Free-Throw Shooting

The Cowboys shot much better from the foul line Friday than they had been, but it still cost them a game.

With about 30 seconds to play in regulation and the Irish up 55-54, the Notre Dame defense rightfully swarmed Small on OSU’s ensuing possessions. Small drove baseline and dumped a pass off to Dailey. Dailey was fouled while going up for a go-ahead layup. At the line, he made the first and missed the second, forcing overtime.

OSU was 17-for-23 (74%) from the foul line against Notre Dame. That’s much, much better than things had been going at the line. OSU entered the day making 54% of its foul shots. But that one miss in particular was untimely.

OSU has three losses by a combined nine points. Good, timely foul shooting would’ve made quite the difference on the perception of this season.

5. It Doesn’t Get Much Easier from Here

KenPom isn’t a perfect metric — especially early in the year during the transfer portal era — but if it shows anything it’s that the Pokes’ schedule isn’t going to let up as the year goes on.

Here are OSU’s results with its KenPom rating (as of writing):

No. 196 Abilene Christian — 64-59 loss
No. 163 Sam Houston — 85-70 win
No. 96 St. Bonaventure — 66-64 loss
No. 199 Notre Dame — 66-64 loss

OSU fell to No. 95 in KenPom, the lowest among Big 12 teams.

Now, the immediate future will be a tad lighter. The Cowboys’ nine remaining nonconference opponents have an average KenPom rating of 241.2. That number balloons to 270 if you remove No. 11 Creighton, a team the Cowboys play Nov. 30. OSU needs (needs) to figure something out during this remaining stretch of nonconference games because the Pokes’ 18-game conference schedule has an average KenPom rating of 30.1.

Again, the freshmen should grow at an accelerated rate as they adjust to the college game, but OSU having issues with Abilene Christian, St. Bonaventure and a not-great Notre Dame team doesn’t instill confidence for the rest of the year.

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