Oklahoma State basketball: 3 takeaways from Cowboys' loss at Kansas
Oklahoma State entered the rankings and Kansas fell out on Monday.
But the Jayhawks got the best of the Cowboys on the court.
Kansas knocked off No. 23-ranked OSU 78-66 late Monday night in Allen Fieldhouse, sending the Cowboys to a second loss in three games while avoiding a season sweep.
It was the first time OSU played Kansas as the lone ranked team since 1983, back when current Kansas coach Bill Self was the Cowboys’ point guard.
OSU is now 12-6 overall and 5-6 in Big 12 play ahead of Saturday’s home game against Kansas State:
Here are three takeaways from the game:
McCormack overpowers Cowboys
The Cowboys have struggled with traditional big men all season.
TCU’s Kevin Samuel. West Virginia’s Derek Culver. Kansas’ David McCormack.
Monday night, McCormack had his way.
The 6-foot-10, 249-pound center scored 23 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked two shots. He made 9 of 12 free shots.
“He kicked our butts,” OSU coach Mike Boynton said. “He set a tone that we didn’t have an answer for.”
The Cowboys attempted a myriad of ways to slow down McCormack.
First, Kalib Boone, who has been red hot, attempted. He didn’t have it Monday night, Boynton said. Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe was not as effective returning from a foot injury that forced him to miss Saturday’s game.
So, the Cowboys went small, which worked early. Self put McCormack on the bench, adjusting to OSU’s substitutions.
But it didn’t work long enough.
McCormack returned and was often against 6-foot-5 Isaac Likekele.
“I gotta shut him down and I gotta be more aggressive,” Likekele said. “He’s a good player but at the end of the day I gotta step up and do what I need to do.”
McCormack scored 19 points in the second half, controlling the game.
“McCormack went right at us and we didn’t offer much resistance at all,” Boynton said.
Fatigue a factor?
A little more than 48 hours before tipoff, the Cowboys completed a double-overtime upset of Texas on Saturday.
Several players logged more than 40 minutes on the court.
And the quick turnaround was a bit of an issue.
“Whenever game time comes, we can’t be tired,” OSU star Cade Cunningham said. “We came back from a double-overtime game, a hard-fought game. Coming into this game, this is Allen Fieldhouse, this is Kansas, so you gotta find a way to will yourself to be ready and energized. Know what I’m saying? Be active.
“Yeah, we’re tired, but that's part of looking at yourself in the mirror and seeing what you can do more. And today, I think, we looked tired at times and that’s unacceptable if we want to be one of the top teams.”
The Cowboys committed 18 turnovers, a total they’ve reached or surpassed in three of the past four games. They shot 34.9% overall with three long dry spells of 5:06, 5:23 and 4:21 without a field goal.
That’s not going to beat a Kansas team — even one slumping — in Allen Fieldhouse.
“It's nothing really else you can do other than get good shots and challenge the guys that are out there to make them,” Boynton said. “Other than that, you try to get to the free-throw line. Obviously, field-goal droughts means we did maybe get to the free-throw line a few times, but that may be something we need to look at doing a little bit more.”
Cunningham said the Cowboys did a bad job of drawing fouls. They shot just 18, which was 16 less than the Jayhawks.
But OSU also did not get in transition. After scoring more than 35 fast-break points against Kansas last month, OSU was held to just eight.
“We didn't get enough stops,” Boynton said. “The first half it was turnovers, and we were close because we guarded well enough. In the second half we didn't.”
OSU also committed too many fouls, with 17 of 24 coming in the second half. Kansas was in the double bonus before the midway point.
The Cowboys did not make excuses or blame officials afterward.
“Every night we try to be aggressive offensively and defensively,” Likekele said. “We can’t really adjust to what the refs got going on or anything like that. There’s no excuses. If they call a foul, it’s a foul, whether we like it or not.
“As much as the fans and other people want to blame the refs, there’s way more things we could’ve controlled to let it get that far into the bonus. I don’t look to blame anybody but ourselves.”
Cunningham comes alive again in the second half
ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla said throughout the night that he would like to see Cunningham take over games earlier.
But that’s not how the freshman approaches games.
He feels out the opponent. He gets his teammates involved.
That’s led to some dynamic second-half performances. Monday night, he scored 21 of his 26 in the final half.
“If it’s not my coaches, my teammates, or my family I don’t listen just because I’m worried about what’s best for my team,” Cunningham said. “Every game I’m going to approach it the same way. I’m going to try to make plays for my team whether it’s in the first half or the second half.
“It just so happened that in the second half is when I’ve got to get it going but I know every team is starting the game with the scouting report fresh in their minds trying to make a stand up against me. I’m just trying to play the game with genuine intentions and just trying to make my team better.”
The Jayhawks made life tough. Cunningham faced double and triple teams on pick-and-rolls.
Yet, he still nearly got the Cowboys back in the game in the second half after they fell behind 15 points with two 3s.
But it was too late.