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Five Thoughts on Oklahoma State’s 81-60 Victory against Oral Roberts

The Cowboys looked good on Sunday.

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[Devin Wilber/PFB]

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STILLWATER — The Cowboys turned in what might’ve been their best performance of the season Sunday.

Oklahoma State throttled Oral Roberts 81-60 in Gallagher-Iba Arena. The win pushes the Pokes back to .500 at 5-5. Here are five thoughts on the game.

1. Prettiest OSU Basketball Since?

For what feels like the first time this season, the Cowboys put together a full 40 minutes, and to put it bluntly, it was a sight to behold.

From start to finish, OSU kicked the crap out of an ORU team that went to overtime with Kansas State at the end of November. While we’re messing with transitive properties, ORU lost to Texas Tech by only six last week.

After turning the ball over 28 times in last week’s win against Tulsa, the Cowboys had just 11 turnovers Sunday and had 24 assists and 31 made baskets. The Cowboys came out scorching from 3, hitting five of their first six. The Pokes eventually cooled from scorching to just on fire, finishing 14-for-30 (47%) from deep.

And it wasn’t just one or two guys doing the heavy lifting. Eight players had an assist Sunday and eight hit a 3. Nobody raised any eyebrows in scoring, but three players put up double figures: Bryce Thompson (13), Quion Williams (13) and Eric Dailey Jr. (12).

It’s probably well too early to proclaim OSU basketball back given the start to the season, but I will say this team is lightyears from the team that lost to Abilene Christian on Nov. 6.

2. Two Players Were on Triple-Double Watch

Javon Small and Brandon Garrison are at opposite ends of the Cowboys’ lineup, with Small playing point guard and Garrison center, but the two had similar impacts on winning Sunday.

Small had eight points, four rebounds and eight assists (with one turnover). Garrison had eight points, nine rebounds and six assists. The two also tied for the team lead in plus/minus at +30 — meaning OSU was 30 points better than ORU when those two were on the floor. Small had all four of his boards in the first half, so his triple-double watch sort of ended in the second.

It’s become commonplace for Small to be an outstanding playmaker, and he was that again against the Golden Eagles. At the first media timeout (less than five minutes into the game), Small had six points (2-for-2 from 3), two rebounds and two assists. Later in the half, Small slipped and still delivered a pick-and-roll assist to Garrison.

Boynton has always raved about Garrison’s passing ability, going back to when Garrison was a signed recruit. There was a stretch Sunday of three straight OSU baskets that Garrison assisted on. He has an innate ability to sense a double team coming in the low post, and he’ll just look over his shoulder and rip a pass cross-court.

Garrison is also a stout defender. Despite surprisingly not recording a block Sunday, there was a possession where Garrison got switched onto Isaac McBride, who is ORU’s point guard and leading scorer. Garrison was able to keep McBride in front of him and keep a hand in his face to force a missed 3. Garrison hustled to the other end and scored on the Cowboys’ ensuing possession.

3. Thompson Gets Going

Bryce Thompson was averaging 18 points a game after OSU’s first two, but midway through Game 3, Thompson suffered a knee injury that would keep him out for three games.

Since his return, Thompson had struggled — until Sunday.

The Tulsa native scored 13 points against Oral Roberts, going 4-for-9 from 3-point range. That’s a far cry from Thompson’s last three games, where he was averaging 6.7 points a game on 31% shooting including going 2-for-12 from 3.

Thompson also had four assists and some solid defensive possessions against the Golden Eagles. Defense is something Thompson has had to work on throughout his college career. Boynton said last week that the Cowboys’ analytics tell them that OSU is a better defensive team when Thompson is on the floor.

PPG FG% 3FG% APG TOPG
Two Games Before Injury 18 54% 63% 2 2
Three Games After Injury 6.7 31% 17% 0.7 2.3
vs. ORU on Sunday 13 36% 44% 4 1

“The process all stays the same no matter if I’m playing good or bad,” Thompson said. “You gotta approach it the same way, putting in the work and doing what it takes. So, yeah, it was definitely good to see a couple go in.”

4. Dailey Quietly Has Double-Double

Eric Dailey Jr. shot 50% from 3 and had a double-double that kind of went under the radar — that’s how well the Cowboys played Sunday.

Dailey finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds, his second career double-double after having 14 points and 11 rebounds against Creighton.

He played a team-high 18 first-half minutes where he scored seven points and made his first three shots. The bulk of his rebounds came in the second half, where he grabbed seven in just 12 minutes.

Dailey is a player with NBA aspirations, and you can tell in how he carries himself. Despite being only a freshman, Dailey makes the right play much more often than not.

“Eric Dailey watches probably more film than any player I’ve ever coached,” OSU coach Mike Boynton said. “He literally texts me every day, ‘Can we watch film?’ Most days I’m like, ‘Dude, I have a job, man. We have nine other dudes on staff. Go call somebody else.’ But most of the time I bring him in because if he’s willing to put the work in, then it’s my responsibility to make sure I’m there to help him as much as possible.”

5. Is It Starting to Come Together?

Through the 10 games OSU has played, 5-5 is undeniably a bad start, but as of late this young group is playing better, particularly on the defensive end.

The Cowboys have held Tulsa to 57 points and Oral Roberts to 60 in OSU’s past two games. Those are the the fewest and second-fewest points OSU has allowed this season. It was also season-low outings for both Tulsa and Oral Roberts.

The Cowboys have now held four teams to below 40% field-goal shooting this season with two of those coming in the past two games. And again, Tulsa’s 37% from the field last week and ORU’s 39% shooting Sunday night were season-lows for both teams.

With Small and the variety of shooters around him, the Cowboys’ offense is better this year than it has been since Cade Cunningham was running the show, but if OSU’s defense can continue down this road, this team’s ceiling will continue to grow.

“I was probably overly critical of our defense early,” Boynton said. “But what I know is it’s hard to be good defensively when you’re young because you gotta get them to buy into the sense of urgency that you have to defend on every possession. They don’t understand that. They don’t do it enough before you get them. But our defensive system is obviously really sound. We’ve been really good defensively for six years.

“I think as you get guys more comfortable with it — we don’t really relent on that. Obviously game to game, we might scheme a guy differently because of what he can do to impact how you play defense, but I do think there’s a level of comfort that these guys are getting with the terminology with the coverages.”

Mike Boynton’s Postgame News Conference

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