Tramel: OU & Oklahoma State basketball trips to Kansas encouraging
The Cowboys and Sooners traveled to Kansas for Saturday Big 12 games -- not together; that wouldn’t be kosher even pre-pandemic. But both played in the Sunflower State and had games that had disparate results but similar feels. Encouragement.
OSU won at Kansas State 70-54, despite Cade Cunningham scoring just five points. Remarkable for a shooting-challenged team to get such low production from the Big 12’s leading scorer, but win not just easily, but with incredible offense. The Cowboys made their final 13 shots.
OU lost 63-59 at Kansas, mostly because the Sooners always lose at KU -- 1993 was the last Sooner win in Lawrence. But Lon Kruger’s squad showed it can play a different kind of way. Teams that can compete in different ways are better-served for the long haul.
First, the Cowboys.
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OSU made 27 of 48 shots, 56.3 percent, and that’s with Cunningham going just 1-of-3 from the field. And it’s not like Cunningham’s minutes were limited -- he played 30:42.
But Isaac Likekele made six of nine, Kalib Boone seven of 11, Rondel Walker four of seven and Avery Anderson III five of 10.
Even better, OSU made six of 14 3-point shots. If the Cowboys score from deep, they are difficult to beat.
“I was really pleased,” OSU coach Mike Boynton said. “Cade (Cunningham) obviously didn’t play particularly well, so to go on the road without him playing well, and to come out with a double-digit road win in conference play, we’ll take that one every single time and go home and try to get ready for the next one.”
Kansas State was short-handed due to COVID protocols, but K-State is short-handed in general this season. And K-State has been short-handed many times over the years. Still, Manhattan rarely has been an easy trip for Cowboy basketball.
Meanwhile, the Sooners played without Brady Manek (and Jalen Hill) at Allen Fieldhouse. OU is an offensive-oriented team, and playing without its four-year scoring machine was a stretch. Manek has scored 1,309 career points, but he’s been in a slump -- 21 points his previous three games, on 9-of-27 shooting, and the Sooners have struggled. Playing without Manek seemed a recipe for a Kansas blowout, especially since Manek is a good rebounder, which would be much-needed against the Jayhawks.
But OU responded with great hustle, defense and energy. Alondes Williams was all over the court. Kur Kuath showed he could stand tall against Kansas center David McCormick. Elijah Harkless, the Cal State-Northridge transfer who had been on the fringes of the rotation, played 38 minutes and bothered the Jayhawks.
Austin Reaves supplied much of the offense, scoring 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting, along with nine rebounds.
It was a new-look OU team. If the Sooners can keep that defensive zeal when Manek returns, they could be an improved team.
Let’s get to the Big 12 rankings this week:
1. Baylor (4-0, 11-0): The Bears keep rolling along. The question is not whether Baylor is the best in the Big 12. The question is whether Baylor is the best in America.
2. Texas (4-0, 10-1): Andrew Jones’ 3-pointer with 1.1 seconds gave the Longhorns a 72-70 win at West Virginia and branded UT as the chief threat to Baylor.
3. Kansas (4-1, 10-2): The Jayhawks were overwhelmed at home by Texas a week ago, but they remain only a half game out of first place.
4. Oklahoma (2-3, 6-4): Why the Sooners fourth? Their schedule has been brutal. OU has played Baylor, KU, West Virginia, Texas Tech and TCU.
5. West Virginia (2-3, 9-4): Why the Mountaineers over the Cowboys? Because of WVU’s rally from 19 points down to win in Stillwater last Monday.
6. Oklahoma State (2-3, 8-3): Why the Cowboys over Tech? Because while OSU has played Kansas State, Tech has played both K-State and Iowa State, the league’s two bottom-dwellers.
7. Texas Tech (3-2, 10-3): Something just seems a little amiss about this Red Raider team.
8. Texas Christian (2-3, 9-4): The Horned Frogs play in Norman on Tuesday night.
9. Kansas State (1-4, 5-8): KSU’s win at Iowa State tells us how to rank the bottom two teams.
10. Iowa State (0-5, 2-7): Big 12 hoops are lessened when the Cyclones aren’t competitive.