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With Big 12 Play about a Week Away, Boynton Wants to Cut Rotation, Increase Turnovers Forced

‘We’re probably not playing 12 guys in conference games, realistically.’



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

STILLWATER — With Big 12 play about a week away, expect the Cowboys to have a leaner rotation starting this week.

Oklahoma State hosts South Carolina State at 2 p.m. Sunday and Chicago State at 6 p.m. Wednesday in what will be the Cowboys’ two final tune-ups before the grueling Big 12 schedule. Returning only three scholarship players from last season’s roster, Mike Boynton has had a fairly open rotation through the early part of the year, as 11 of his 12 scholarship players are averaging at least nine minutes a game. But with preparations for Baylor on Jan. 6, Boynton said he is going to start trimming rotations.

“We’re probably not playing 12 guys in conference games, realistically,” Boynton said Friday. “We’re probably playing seven, eight — maybe nine depending on foul trouble, situation of the game. Those guys that are maybe just on the outside have to be prepared when their time comes. And the guys that are just on the inside, that may be just on the other side of the line — six, seven eight — they can’t get comfortable because the game is fluid. We don’t get to lose because we’re committed to you playing. You gotta play well in your opportunity.”

Boynton has used the same starting lineup for the past five games: Javon Small, Bryce Thompson, Quion Williams, Eric Dailey Jr. and Brandon Garrison. Outside of that group, Mike Marsh and John Michael Wright have averaged the most minutes per game, but Wright’s minutes have been down as of late, averaging just 8.7 a game across OSU’s past three.

North Florida transfer Jarius Hicklen has been on the other side of that, averaging 16 minutes a game in OSU’s past three games. Freshman Jamyron Keller has also seen consistent minutes as OSU’s backup point guard since returning from a preseason wrist injury.

It’ll be interesting to see Isaiah Miranda’s usage. Miranda’s ceiling is ridiculous. He’s 7-foot-1, can shoot the 3 and moves well laterally, but injuries have plagued his time in Stillwater thus far. He has played in only three college basketball games to this point, where he has averaged 2.7 points and 2.3 rebounds.

“He’s probably on the outside, in all honesty, for multiple reasons,” Boynton said. “It’s time to kind of go with the guys that we know kind of where we are with. That doesn’t mean he won’t play, but that his opportunities won’t be as much in these first couple Big 12 games as we prepare. We’ll see he handles it. You never know until the kid has to go through that, but I certainly hope he has the maturity to understand that it’s not necessarily anybody’s fault. It’s just you can’t realistically play 12 guys and have any real flow in a game that has as much intensity as we’re gonna play in next week.”

The Cowboys’ game Sunday will be their first in more than a week because of the holiday break. Heading into league play, Boynton said his group needs to continue to build offensively with guards Javon Small and Bryce Thompson leading that charge, but he also mentioned the Cowboys’ defense needing to improve.

There has been a bit of a philosophy shift heading into this season, as Boynton and his staff have sacrificed some defense for offense based on the teams’ newcomers. Boynton’s past three teams have all finished in the top 20 nationally in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency. The Cowboys boasted the No. 4 defense in the country during the 2021-22 season. The current Cowboys rank 60th in the stat.

The Cowboys have been better defensively lately. They held Tulsa and Oral Roberts to season lows in points while Wofford had its third-worst scoring game of the season against OSU. The Cowboys forced an average of 12.3 turnovers per game in their first eight; they’ve forced 15.7 a game in their past three. OSU is tied for 139th nationally in turnovers forced per game with 13.18, which ranks ninth in the Big 12.

“We went from a team that could shut you out to a team that really kind of bends, don’t break,” Boynton said. “But we’ve got to be able to force some more turnovers. We don’t force a ton of turnovers, so we don’t get as many easy baskets, ones that guys need in transition are missing out on. Q [Quions Williams] is averaging like like seven [points] a game. We need to get him 10 to 12, 13 [points a game] and most of those will come from getting to the offensive glass, which we haven’t done a great job of, and creating some more off of our defense.”

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