Unless it’s against Syracuse (or Oklahoma State this season), it’s often seen as a compliment when a team throws a zone at another squad.
In Oklahoma State’s 75-70 victory against No. 6 Kansas on Tuesday night, the Jayhawks, who were supposed to be the better team, threw three different defensive looks at the Cowboys to slow down Cade Cunningham and Co.
Kansas started in man-to-man, but the Cowboys were able to get out and run against that look and built up a 16-point lead.
KU then went to a 2-3 zone that Bill Self called poopy, in harsher terms, before landing on a triangle and two that sparked the Jayhawks’ comeback.
The triangle and two was focused on slowing down Cunningham and Bryce Williams, who combined for 35 points. Two Jayhawk defenders played man-to-man on those two while the other three guys were in a soft zone and challenged other Cowboys to win the game.
“What they did was, Cade had it going pretty good there,” OSU coach Mike Boynton said. “They just decided they weren’t going to guard those other guys. I think they played a triangle and two. I’ll go back and watch the film, but I’m pretty certain it was a triangle and two on Bryce and Cade, and they were going to dare Avery [Anderson] and Rondel [Walker] and Ice [Isaac Likekele] to beat them. All of those guys ended up making really, really big plays for us.”
Those three guys Boynton mentioned combined for 32 points including a big six points in the final 1:02. That’s when Likekele nailed his sixth 3-pointer of the season. That’s tied for the most 3s he has made in a season in his career.
Likekele isn’t a sharp shooter by any means, but it was puzzling to see a team up three allow a guy to put up an uncontested 3 that late in the game.
“If Likekele doesn’t make that shot, we win the game,” Self said. “I would say there’s a 95% chance of that happening, but he did make the shot. It was a great shot by him.”
The Cunningham block to save to Walker and-one were the next points scored and ended up being the difference in the game.
As good as Cunningham is, Tuesday night proved OSU has other guys who can score, as three other Cowboys scored in double figures.
OSU runs in transition as good as any team in the nation, whether Cunningham is scoring himself or maestroing the offense with his passing.
The scoring droughts will make OSU fans pull their hair out, but the Pokes’ 77.1 points per game ranks third in the Big 12.
The Runnin’ Cowpokes even made blueblooded Kansas reevaluate how to guard them.
“I think that’s what gave us a chance to win was the triangle and two because we certainly were not guarding them man-to-man,” Self said.