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Five Thoughts on Oklahoma State’s 70-66 Victory against West Virginia

On victory, Brandon Garrison’s big day and Mike Boynton’s Remember the Ten record.



[Devin Wilber/PFB]


STILLWATER — The Cowboys won’t go winless through a conference season.

Oklahoma State beat West Virginia 70-66 on Saturday in Gallagher-Iba Arena to secure the Pokes’ first league win. Here are five thoughts from a great game.

1. Victory

At long last, the Cowboys have won a Big 12 game.

There were plenty of spots where this game looked as if it was going to take a turn for the worse for OSU like all of the others, but the Cowboys just kept coming back.

West Virginia went on a 9-0 run midway through the second half to take a 50-46 lead. Recent games might’ve suggested that was the beginning of the end for the Cowboys, but they fought back with a run to tie it at 50.

Then Kerr Kriisa (who was Lubbock Lindy levels of on fire) hit back-to-back 3s to give the Mountaineers a six-point lead with about seven minutes to play. But the Cowboys again responded. The battle continued into clutch time, which we’ll get to, but every time the Cowboys got popped, they fired a return shot.

The team is still 1-6 in the Big 12, so I’m not going to make too big a deal about anything. But I will say it says a lot about the group that the Cowboys just keep fighting despite this season seeming doomed for outsiders since the Cowboys lost to Abilene Christian to start the year.

“It sure feels good to win,” OSU coach Mike Boynton said. “But the thing I’m most proud of, or really two things: one of the kids, who just keep showing up. The thing that I tell them is it’s hard to beat somebody who keeps showing up. It really is because the mindset is that at some point, the other person is not gonna show up. I’m proud of our kids for continuing to do the things that we’ve asked them to do even though they haven’t seen what they saw today, the fruits of that labor in a way that everybody can recognize as being a win.”

2. Brandon Garrison Is a Dawg

Only a freshman, Brandon Garrison did it all to lead his team to its first Big 12 win.

Garrison had 20 points, five rebounds, four assists, four steals and a block against West Virginia.

Even more impressive, the 6-foot-10 center with long arms went 8-for-10 from the foul line, including going 4-for-4 from the stripe in the final 1:30 of the game. He went to the line with 1:27 to play down 64-62 and got them both to tie it up. Then he returned to the stripe with 27 seconds to play with a 67-66 lead and hit two more to force the Mountaineers into a 3-point attempt on their ensuing possession, which they airballed.

He was also a team-best plus-nine in plus/minus, meaning the Cowboys were nine points better than the Mountaineers with Garrison on the floor.

Garrison has spent the past few games in foul trouble, playing only 11 minutes against TCU and 16 minutes against Kansas State. It was particularly paramount Saturday that he stayed out of foul trouble, as the Pokes were without Mike Marsh because of illness. So that left Garrison as the only true center on the roster. He didn’t have a single foul in his 35 minutes on the floor.

3. Working Inside Out

Garrison’s stat line already suggests the Cowboys worked the ball inside more, but it was evident even when plays weren’t starting with a Garrison low-post touch.

The Cowboys made it a point to get paint touches, and for the first time in Big 12 play, OSU outscored its opponent in the paint. The Pokes had 26 paint points to West Virginia’s 22.

The offense seemed at its best Saturday when Garrison would get the ball in the low post and could hit a slasher, rip a cross-court pass for an open 3 or just take it to whichever Mountaineer was guarding him. But the Cowboys also had success driving the baseline. That forced WVU to help off and OSU caught the Mountaineers in rotation quite a few times.

Even when those paint touches resulted in 3-point shots, it just felt more likely those shots were going to go in as opposed to 3-point attempts that stayed on the perimeter all possession.

4. Scoring in the Clutch

The final five minutes of games have been like the boogeyman for OSU basketball as of late, but not Saturday.

In their past two games, OSU was just a combined 1-for-10 from the field in the final five minutes. Their opponents (Kansas State and TCU), meanwhile, were 7-for-10 from the field. Well, Saturday, OSU was 3-for-6 (50%) from the field while holding WVU to 1-for-9 (11%). OSU also forced its way to the foul line eight times in the final five minutes and made seven of those shots.

OSU’s three made field goals in that stretch were all from 3. The first was John-Michael Wright hitting a triple off an Eric Dailey Jr. offensive rebound. Wright’s bucket cut WVU’s lead to 61-59 with 4:04 to play.

Then after the Mountaineers missed a 3, Garrison ripped down a board and pushed to up to Dailey, who threw a cross-court pass to Thompson on a fast break. Thompson didn’t have his best offensive outing and was 1-for-8 from the field when he caught Dailey’s pass, but confident as ever, Thompson pulled of from the corner and splashed down a 3 to give OSU a 62-61 lead with 3:24 to play.

After a bit of back and forth, the Cowboys were down 66-64 with a minute to play when Javon Small hit probably the toughest 3 of the bunch to give the Cowboys a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

“Today we kinda got over the hurdle,” Boynton said. “We can’t assume that it’s automatic now. The only thing that is automatic is age. I tell them all the time age is automatic, but growth is intentional. We have to grow from this the same way we grew from the last few losses.”

5. Mike Boynton Wins His Most Important Game of the Year

Earlier this week, Boynton called the Remember the Ten game the most important of the season because of its real-life impact on those involved.

He said even in the Cade Cunningham season, where OSU played in the conference tournament final and in the NCAA Tournament, that the Cowboys’ Remember the Ten win against Oklahoma was the most important.

Well, Boynton is now 6-1 in Remember the Ten games after Saturday’s win. His only loss in the game was to No. 3 Kansas in 2020. Other than that, he has beaten OU twice during R10 day, including the No. 4, Trae Young-led Sooners in 2018. Boynton’s Cowboys also beat South Carolina, Arkansas and Ole Miss — all part of the now-defunct Big 12-SEC Challenge.

“What I focused on was A, making sure our guys knew what this was about,” Boynton said. “And then making sure that we were also prepared to play against somebody today.

“… I tried to really focus on making sure that we didn’t get so wrapped up in the emotion of the game that we also didn’t prepare well. So there was a balance in doing both of those things.”

The Cowboys haven’t won enough during Boynton’s tenure, I’m not here to argue that. But, the man is a wizard in important games. He’s 6-1 in Remember the Ten games and 9-5 against the Sooners.

Bonus Thought: Javon Small Was V. Good

Even outside of his go-ahead 3 with less than a minute to play, Javon Small had him self a day.

A transfer point guard from East Carolina, Small had a 15-point, 12-rebound double-double, and he flirted with a triple double with his seven assists. It has to feel extra vindicating for Small because he missed a couple of shots late in OSU’s close losses, but Saturday, he was nails.

His feel for the game is so good — when to speed up, when to slow down. He knows how it will affect a defense if he takes a hard step or two one way. At 6-foot-3, he is also an incredible rebounder. He is good at anticipating where a miss is going to bounce off to. He had four rebounds in the final five minutes when his team needed them. Just winning play after winning play.

Mike Boynton’s Postgame News Conference

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