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Five Thoughts on Oklahoma State’s 81-78 Loss to TCU

What a miraculous way for the Cowboys to lose.



[Photo via Courtney Bay/OSU Athletics]


For the second time this season, the Cowboys lost to the Horned Frogs in spectacular fashion.

Oklahoma State lost to TCU 81-78 on Wednesday in Fort Worth after having a lead and the ball in the final 25 seconds. This comes after the Cowboys gave up a 9-0 to TCU in December to lose by a point. Here are five thoughts from the Cowboys’ most recent bout against TCU.

1. The Mindboggling Final Moments

The Cowboys led this game with 24 seconds left and had the ball and found a miraculous way to lose.

A lot of people will point to Cade Cunningham’s incomprehensible drive to the basket in a tie game with 16 seconds to go and the shot clock being off. It’s an obvious moment where the Cowboys should’ve played for the last shot and either won the game or went to overtime.

“He kinda made a decision,” OSU coach Mike Boynton said of Cunningham’s shot. “He thought he had an opening. I think he thought he had an opening. I think he thought he could get all the way to the rim. But obviously what he’s got to learn is in that situation you want to take as much time off the clock as possible and get it down to where the other team doesn’t have so much time. But he made an aggressive play. Can’t fault the kid for that.”

But the craziness started a few seconds before that. With 24 seconds left, Cunningham inbounded the ball to Bryce Williams, who split a pair of free-throws to give OSU a 2-point lead instead of a 3-point lead.

One could argue Cunningham should’ve been the guy receiving the inbound pass not throwing it, as he is the Pokes’ best foul shooter, but he is also the Cowboys’ safest passer. That dilemma left Williams at the line where he missed the first and made the second.

Then TCU stormed down and scored to tie the game at 78 before Cunningham’s rushed attempt at a lead. Then OSU seemed to press TCU as if the Cowboys thought they were trailing, which led to Jaedon Ledee’s game-winning and-one. He probably should’ve been called for a charge against Avery Anderson, but the Cowboys shouldn’t have ever found themselves in that scenario in the first place.

It was a frantic few moments in a game that was slow because of all the fouls called. It also showed just how inexperienced the Cowboys are. In that final stretch, Avery Anderson was the only Cowboy on the floor who played Big 12 basketball last season, and three of the Cowboys on the floor were true freshmen.

2. Costly Throws

The Cowboys have not been good from the foul line this season, and it bit the Pokes hard in Fort Worth.

One could argue OSU should’ve never been in that crazy scenario late if the Cowboys would’ve just been more efficient from the foul line throughout the game.

This game included 41 personal fouls, as the officials stayed consistent with touch fouls to every spectator’s dismay.

At the line, TCU went 16-for-21 (76.2%), and the Cowboys went 22-for-32 (68.8%). Asking a team to make 100% of its free throws in unreasonable, but the Cowboys just needed to make one or two more.

Here is how the Cowboys did from the line individually:

Cunningham — 7-for-8
Moncrieffe — 5-for-8
Likekele — 2-for-4
Ka. Boone — 1-for-2
Walker — 5-for-6
B. Williams — 2-for-4

People will holler like Boynton doesn’t have them practice free throws. He does. This could be another inexperience thing, but if the Pokes don’t get a little more experienced fast, this could be the difference in an NCAA Tournament win or loss.

“I don’t have a great answer, to be honest,” Boynton said. “It’s something that some games we shoot them well. Some games we don’t. I think it’s a focus deal. Tonight we weren’t focused. That’s one of the stats that’s a little telling as to where our mindset is, is if we are stepping up there and shooting them the same way. But we’ll get back, and we’ll practice them like we always have.”

3. Not So Overrated

Cunningham’s final 16 seconds are going to overshadow the second-half throttling he put on the TCU student section.

OSU’s star freshman didn’t score in the first half after playing only eight minutes because of two early fouls. The TCU student section started chanting “overrated” at him, and he proceeded to hit shot after shot and let said student section know about it.

It was coming together like a storybook until it wasn’t.

Despite the head-scratching final seconds, Cunningham scored 19 points in the second half.

4. The Worst OSU Has Played This Season

This is the worst OSU has played in the 2020-21 season.

The Cowboys looked like they were sleepwalking until they were forced to turn it on late, but it was too late.

Boynton’s teams have rarely gotten outhustled, but it happened Wednesday. TCU brought down 11 offensive rebounds and converted them into 15 second-chance points. The 50/50 balls looked more like 80/20 balls in TCU’s favor. For reference, OSU scored only six second-chance points.

Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe, Bryce Williams and Rondel Walker seemed like the only guys locked in at the beginning of the game. That trio combined for 44 points. Moncrieffe recorded his third double-double in the past four games.

Kalib Boone and Isaac Likekele didn’t provide enough, as those two combined for five points and four rebounds.

My initial gut says yes [this is the worst we’ve played this season],” Boynton said. “The film may tell me a different story. Really it’s just because we never locked in defensively. There’s been games we haven’t shot the ball well, and I thought we played pretty hard, I thought we played the right way and sometimes shots don’t fall. But our engagement defensively never got to a place where it’s acceptable for our team and for this program.”

5. Missed Opportunity

The Cowboys had a real shot to shoot up rankings this week.

Five AP Top 25 teams lost Wednesday night. The Cowboys are the first team out of those rankings, and a win here would’ve all but secured the Pokes moving into the AP Poll for the first time since the 2014-15 season.

There is still a shot to do so, but that would take the Cowboys beating No. 6 Texas on Saturday. It would’ve likely been more simple to beat a TCU team that lost its past five games.

Rankings don’t actually mean anything, but the NCAA Tournament Committee will likely at least look at them when seeding teams for the Tournament. This loss for the Pokes might have been the difference in a couple of seeds. That is, if the Pokes can still stay in Tournament contention.

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