Oklahoma State basketball: 3 takeaways from Cowboys' loss at TCU
Oklahoma State superstar Cade Cunningham was in full attack mode.
With a tie game and the clock nearing 12 seconds and no shot clock running, Cunningham saw an opening. Hechose to drive to the basket for a go-ahead layup.
Except he missed. And chaos followed.
TCU’s Jaedon Ledee made a layup and drew a foul, making a free shot with 2.2 seconds remaining to stun the Cowboys for a second time this season, this time 81-78 late Wednesday night in Fort Worth, Texas.
- Related to this story
- Article: Tramel: Why Cade Cunningham's quick shot was such a bad decision in Oklahoma State's loss at TCU
“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,” Boynton said of Cunningham’s layup. “But he made an aggressive play. Can’t fault the kid for that.
“I was more disappointed in our transition defense after that, because we never chase the ball in the backcourt, certainly not in a tie game. Our first priority is to get back, get the basket covered and get the ball stopped as it’s coming up the court. We just had guys get outside of that.
“That was typical of how we were tonight. We weren’t ourselves.”
TCU ultimately swept the two-game series with the Cowboys. OSU is now 11-5 and 4-5 in Big 12 play. The Horned Frogs are now 10-7 and 3-5 in conference play after ending their five-game skid.
OSU now looks to rebound against powerful Texas on Saturday.
Here are three takeaways from the loss:
For the first time all season, Boynton was not pleased with the Cowboys’ mental focus.
They simply appeared to be sleepwalking at times.
“It was like that from the start,” Boynton said. “We didn’t have the urgency that we needed to go on the road and win in this league. And, obviously, part of that is on me as a coach to make sure that our guys understand what’s at stake, what we’re playing for. The guys gotta go out there and play and fight.
“We didn’t do that from the beginning. We were playing catch up.”
TCU built a 10-point lead with 12:04 remaining in the game before the Cowboys rallied to eventually take the lead multiple times.
Boynton said it felt like the Cowboys believed they would just outscore TCU.
“Like we thought we’d have enough possessions to score the last time and obviously that didn’t work out,” Boynton said. “It’s always dangerous when you’re playing that way because you don’t always know who’s going to have the ball last.”
OSU had a big night from freshman Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe, who finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Bryce Williams had 11 points and six assists off the bench. Walker had 16 points, including nine in the second half.
But the Cowboys still lacked the intensity they normally feature.
Even the defense struggled.
“I feel like we were thinking too much into it and really we were just over playing, over helping, over rotating, over everything,” Walker said. “I felt like we got too aggressive at times and they have good guards and they took advantage of our over aggressiveness today.”
Boynton was asked afterward if this was the worst OSU had played this season.
It’s hard to argue with his answer.
“My initial gut says yes,” 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.”
Cunningham spent 12 minutes on the bench in the first half. Then he got the full road treatment that often lacks in the pandemic era.
He was showered with “overrated” chants.
It’s not advisable to give extra motivation to the possible No. 1 overall draft pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, but Horned Frogs fans went for it.
And it was perfectly timed during an up-and-down day for the Cowboys’ star.
Mired in foul trouble in the opening half, Cunningham did not score. He took just two shots in the 8 minutes he played.
But he battled back in the second half, scoring 19 points while playing all 20 minutes and willing the sluggish Cowboys back into the game.
“He’s just an elite athlete,” OSU freshman Rondel Walker said. “We weren’t expecting him to have zero in the first half, but nobody said anything to him at halftime because we know that he’s a player and players make plays. It wasn’t going to be like that the rest of the game. The second half he stepped up and made big plays for us.”
Like hitting go-ahead foul shots with 3:20 remaining. Or another go-ahead 3-pointer over Ledee and putting a finger to his lips to silent the crowd around a minute later. Cunningham even hit two more go-ahead foul shots with 1:14 remaining.
But his late-game heroics could only go so far.
He missed a jumper that would have made it a four-point lead with less than a minute remaining. He also had the missed layup and then his half-court heave bounced off the rim as time expired.
Ferron Flavors Jr. lined up the shot from the left corner and everything was smooth.
With 3:12 remaining in the first half, OSU’s sharpshooter made his first 3-pointer since mid-December in his first game since Jan. 4 following a finger injury on his shooting hand.
And as he celebrated with his teammates near the bench, there was visible joy from his teammates.
Flavors was finally back, and so was his lost shot.
“He’s been the loudest on the bench every game so it was great energy for him coming back in,” Walker said. “He actually contributed tonight, so that was big for us.”
He proved it later, making a deep go-ahead trey with 4:36 remaining after the Cowboys fell behind by 10.
Flavors made 2 of 3 from deep to finish with six points and a rebound.
“Another weapon for us,” Boynton said.