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Five Thoughts on Oklahoma State’s 78-66 Loss to Kansas

On Cade’s expectations and Boone’s late absence.



[Photo via Courtney Bay/OSU Athletics]


Monday seemed as if it had tournament-clinching potential for the Pokes, but they couldn’t take advantage of it.

Oklahoma State is still in a good spot to make the NCAA Tournament despite its 78-66 loss to Kansas in Lawrence, but this Big Monday was far from the Cowboys’ day. Here are five thoughts on OSU’s sixth loss of the year.

1. The Ridiculous Expectations Placed on Cade Cunningham

As a true freshman, Cade Cunningham is leading the Big 12 in scoring and dropped 26 points in Allen Field House, but people are still calling for him to do more.

He is the projected No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft and was the No. 1 player in his high school recruiting class, so this is just part of it. But the magnifying glass is definitely on everything he does.

His seven turnovers Monday were an alarming stat for sure, but he didn’t get a ton of help. While getting double and triple teamed throughout the night, Cunningham scored 39% of OSU’s points.

He was 4-for-8 from 3-point range while the rest of OSU was 3-for-18. That allows teams to clog the lane to further stunt OSU’s offensive production.

Fran Fraschilla encapsulated all the different looks at Cunningham when he was calling the game. Fraschilla noted Cunningham was getting double and triple teamed while saying he wants him to look to score more all while Cunningham was the game’s leading scorer.

And I get it, second-half Cunningham and first-half Cunningham are almost different people, but what is he supposed to do? Is he supposed to realistically average 40 a game?

As far as turnovers go, OSU coach Mike Boynton said Cunningham could take a few less dribbles. Cunningham does have 17 turnovers in the past four games, but he is averaging 18.9 points a game on 43% shooting. Other Cowboys hitting shots will do a lot more than Cunningham trying to play hero ball from the opening tip.

“It definitely starts with me,” Cunningham said. “Looking at the numbers the last few games, I probably lead the country in turnovers. I have the ball in my hands a bunch throughout the game. I’m asked to make a lot of plays, and that’s what I ask for. I want the ball in my hands so limiting those turnovers and making sure that my team is getting shots every trip, that’s huge for us.”

2. Turnovers Everywhere

Cunningham might be adding to OSU’s turnover issue, but he isn’t the only Cowboy coughing up the rock.

As a squad, OSU is giving the ball away 15.6 times a game, and it has gotten worse as of late. In their past five games the Cowboys have averaged 18.8 turnovers a game.

This makes back-to-back games the Cowboys haven’t looked good offensively. The Pokes had 59 points at the end of regulation against Texas on Saturday, and the 66 OSU finished with against Kansas is tied for the fewest OSU has scored in a game this season.

It seems counterintuitive that OSU is having issues with turnovers considering Boynton starts three point guard in Cunningham, Isaac Likekele and Avery Anderson, but that’s just how it is.

On Saturday the Cowboys had issues getting the ball into the post early and a handful of passes to from the corner to the wing ended in backcourt violations.

Things just don’t look good for the Cowboys when they aren’t getting out and running. After a quick Saturday-Monday turnaround, Boynton welcomes a full week of practice.

“We need to practice,” Boynton said. “We had some turnover issues earlier in the year, and then we had some really good practices where we were able to focus on holding them more accountable to it. One of the challenges when you don’t have practices, and this isn’t an excuse, we really couldn’t do much about all the turnovers Saturday because we just had to try to get ready for the game today, other than watch some film. That’s on us. We got to get better in that area, for sure.” 

3. Boone’s Second-Half Absence

At the first media timeout, Kalib Boone had four points, four rebounds and three blocks, but it didn’t carry over late.

Boone has been a bit of a coin-flip player for OSU this season, but looking at his line early, it looked as if the Cowboys had good Boone in Lawrence. But Mike Boynton didn’t necessarily see it that way. Boone sat for all but four minutes of the second half.

Boynton said Boone didn’t have it defensively, as David McCormack dominated his way to 23 points on 16 shots to go with 10 rebounds.

Boynton’s response was to play small, as one of his lineups was Cunningham, Likekele, Anderson, Bryce Williams and Ferron Flavors.

For what it’s worth, McCormack scored 21 of his 23 points in the second half, a half where, again, Boone played only four minutes.

“Defensively, [Boone] just didn’t offer any resistance in there,” Boynton said. “I tell guys all the time, you look at the stats and they can tell you some of the story. Numbers don’t lie, but they don’t tell you the whole story, right? So he had four blocks, but I thought he did a really poor job of protecting the basket. If we’re not going to get rim protection against a bigger guy, we need to find a better way to attack him, so we thought we’d go small and try to force to take him out of the game. It worked for a little while, but not long enough.”

4. Oklahoma State’s Big Problem

That leads into a bigger point of OSU struggling with physically imposing bigs.

McCormack, TCU’s Kevin Samuel, West Virginia’s Derek Culver, those types of post players have feasted on OSU this season.

In two games against OSU, McCormack has averaged 23.5 points and 11 rebounds a game. Entering Monday’s game, McCormack averaged 12.6 points and 5.8 rebounds on the season.

Boynton has tried a few different things to defend those physical freaks. The Cowboys have played small to try to force the big off the court because he can’t guard a guard. Boynton has thrown Boone, Bernard Kouma and Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe at them. So far, the answer hasn’t been found.

There is also a correlation in Boone’s bad games and games against those big guys.

“[Boone has] got to learn to continue to use his quickness to his advantage,” Boynton said. “In the mean time he’s gotta keep eating and stay in the weight room. If it’s going to be about a 50-pound difference, then either learn how to outwork the guy and be faster than him, or figure out a way to get stronger. There’s two great options out there. We got plenty of food in our place.”

5. Free Throws Bite OSU, but in a Different Way

Free throws have been an issue for OSU all season, but the Cowboys shot their best percentage from the line all season Monday. The issue was Kansas shot almost double the amount OSU did.

The Cowboys were 15-for-18 (83%) at the stripe, but Kansas was 27-for-34 (79%) from the foul line.

I’m not here to blame this on the officials by any means. OSU turned the ball over 18 times and was 7-for-26 from 3-point range. However, it’s not like the Cowboys weren’t attacking the basket. OSU had 23 layup attempts compared to KU’s 21. McCormack himself shot 12 foul shots, six fewer than all of OSU.

But still, if Rondel Walker, Ferron Flavors and Bryce Williams don’t go 2-for-13 from 3 or if OSU has only 12 turnovers instead of 18, it wouldn’t have mattered how many free throws KU shot.

“There’s no excuses,” Likekele said. “If they call a foul, it’s a foul, whether we like it or not. We just gotta go in there and be more smart about which ones we pick and choose. They were in the bonus, I think, like the last 12 minutes of the second half. That’s not all on the refs. I had a dumb foul 94 feet away from the rim, and we had other players get fouls 94 feet away from the rim. That’s not the refs’ fault.

“As much as the fans and other people want to blame the refs, there’s way more things we could’ve controlled to let it get that far into the bonus. I don’t look to blame anybody but ourselves. Coaches put us in great positions, they had us well prepped, no matter if we played a double-overtime game two day ago or not. Great teams are able to play Saturday, no matter how much, and are able to come back and win Monday. That’s what the great teams do. We just gotta decide where we’re going to go on this break. It starts with myself.”

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