Tramel: Defense gives Oklahoma State basketball a chance to roll
OSU-Texas basketball Saturday was not an artistic success.
The Cowboys shot 35.3 percent from the field. They committed 22 turnovers. They allowed 23 offensive rebounds that led to 17 second-chance points.
Cade Cunningham got in early foul trouble. Matthew Alexander-Moncrieffe missed the game with a foot injury. The sixth-ranked Longhorns, who have had their share of COVID-related absences, were at virtual full strength.
And OSU won the game, 75-67 in double overtime at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
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The reason was defense. The Cowboys, playing mostly zone, shut down the Longhorns all game long.
Texas didn’t make a basket the final 12 minutes of the game. The ‘Horns shot just 25.3 percent (20 of 79) and made only five of 35 3-point shots. UT committed 21 turnovers itself.
Texas scored 67 points in 50 minutes. The Longhorns entered the game shooting 34.9 percent from 3-point range, ranking fourth in the Big 12. They left shooting 33.2 percent, eighth-best among the 10 teams in the conference.
OSU’s 81-78 loss at Texas Christian last Wednesday was a discouraging defeat in what was a promising Cowboy season. But the knockoff of Texas returned the promise to the season.
If the Cowboys play defense like this, “I think we can beat anybody in the country,” OSU coach Mike Boynton said. “I think we have good enough players to figure it out on the offensive end.
“That’s what was so disappointing and hurtful the other night. We didn’t play with that defensive edge. I think when we’re dialed in defensively, guys are willing to sacrifice … I like the pieces we’ve got. Long way to go, but I think we’re in position where I hope we can be.”
The Cowboys play at Kansas on Monday night, with a chance at sweeping the Jayhawks and continuing the promise. Kansas is not a bad shooting team (.358 3-point percentage), but OSU’s active zone has proven effective at both minimizing the Cowboys’ lack of size inside and also bothering perimeter shooters.
Cunningham credited the activity at the top of the zone against Texas. “Whoever the two top guys were, whether Avery (Anderson), Brice (Williams), Rondel (Walker), (Ferron) Flavors (Jr.),” Cunningham said, “They picked up the ball early. They made the top of the zone tough to deal with. They made the two wing guys’ (Cunningham included) job easier.”
OSU’s defense was incredible. Texas made just 13 of 65 first shots a possession.
“We defended at a high level,” Boynton said. “That was an Oklahoma State throwback win that maybe Coach Iba and Coach Sutton would be proud of.”
OSU still has a rebounding deficiency, but Texas is an extreme case, with big man Jericho Sims and long athletes Greg Brown and Kai Jones. Kansas is more normal-sized this season. If the Jayhawks don't solve the Cowboy zone, OSU could continue its climb.