FORT WORTH, Texas — A week ago, the Cowboys were playing their best basketball of the season. But Saturday was arguably the worst they’ve played all season.
TCU drummed Oklahoma State 100-75 on Saturday in Schollmaier Arena. The loss moves Mike Boynton to 0-6 in the building.
After dropping their past four games, the Horned Frogs got Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year Mike Miles back, and he was terrific, scoring 15 points on eight shots. Here are five thoughts from a game in which the Horned Frogs played well and the Cowboys played poorly.
1. Defense, Defense Wherefore Art Thou, Defense
The last time OSU gave up 100 points, Trae Young was conducting the opposing team’s offense. OSU’s loss Saturday snaps a streak of 172 games where the Cowboys have held an opponent under 100.
During the stretch where OSU had won six of seven, the Pokes were holding opponents to 65.3 points a game and opponents shot 41% from the field and 31% from 3. OSU’s past two opponents have averaged 93.5 points while shooting 61% from the field and 43% from 3. For what it’s worth, TCU came into Saturday shooting just 28% from 3 before going 8-for-15 (53%) from deep against the Pokes.
The defensive identity this team had has been gone the past two games.
“We just have to get back to our grit and toughness, whether it be in practice or in the games,” guard John-Michael Wright said. “We just have to come out with a lot more fire and the expectation that the other team is here it knock our heads off. I don’t think we did a good job of that today as a team.
“Defense is what we do. That’s our bread and butter, so we know if we want to win and go far to where we want to go, that’s the thing that’s gonna take us there. We’ll pinpoint that. We’ll get that taken care of. We understand that’s what we need to fix. We’re gonna get it done.”
2. TCU Dominated OSU Inside
It hasn’t been often this season that the Cowboys have gotten bullied in the paint, but that happened Saturday.
TCU scored 50 points in the paint to OSU’s 20.
There are a couple of things that played into it offensively for OSU. The Cowboys struggled getting the ball to the low block. TCU did a good job denying Kalib Boone even touching the rock early. Then Boone got in early foul trouble, picking up his second less than nine minutes in the game and his third just over three minutes into the second half.
Then we’ve already discussed how poor the Cowboys’ defense was.
“I just think [TCU] played with a great physical presence,” Boynton said. “… It’s something that we have to respond to. It’s not the first time we’ve played against a team that’s physical, so I’m surprised that we didn’t respond better. But it’s something that we need to address because obviously there’s a possibility that we could see them again, but the other teams in our league all have the ability to do the same thing.”
3. Turnovers Hurt OSU in Both of Those Aspects
Breakaway layups are good for both shooting percentages and points in the paint, and that’s what teams can get when OSU turns the ball over.
TCU forced the Cowboys into 17 turnovers which led to 21 Horned Frog points.
If the Cowboys could take care of the ball on the offensive end, it’s going to help their defense immensely. The Cowboys now average 14.4 turnovers a game, though. And Avery Anderson is still out indefinitely with a wrist injury — which leads to my next point.
4. Anderson’s Absence Felt More Saturday
The Cowboys have been without point guard Avery Anderson since the Cowboys’ win in Norman on Feb. 1, but his absence Saturday was as noticeable as it has ever been.
In the first half, OSU struggled getting the ball into the low post which led to the ball getting passed around the perimeter a few times before some OSU guard was forced to try to make something happen with the shot clock expiring. It wasn’t pretty. The Cowboys went on a streak where they shot eight straight 3-pointers, making two. But there was a 10:17 stretch where OSU didn’t even have a 2-point field-goal attempt.
Anderson is OSU’s best player in terms of beating defenders off the dribble. The Cowboys needed him Saturday to create some sort of offensive pulse. OSU won’t have him for the foreseeable future (maybe not for the rest of the season), so the Pokes will have to figure something out.
5. Cowboys Sliding Back Toward Bubble
The Cowboys worked so hard over the past month to get onto and over the bubble, but after all that work, more performances like this might move them right back down to it.
West Virginia in Morgantown is up next for the Pokes. The Mountaineers lost to Texas Tech in Morgantown earlier Saturday. That could be both a good or a bad thing thinking for OSU. For one, WVU lost to a bottom team in the conference on its home floor, so it’s possible. But, West Virginia is fighting for an NCAA Tournament bid just like OSU is, so if there can be only one, Monday’s matchup could be a dogfight.
Then there’s K-State in GIA in a week. The Wildcats had lost four of five before beating Iowa State on Saturday.
Baylor comes to Stillwater on Feb. 27.
Then the Pokes close the regular season with a game in Lubbock against Texas Tech. The Red Raiders started Big 12 play 0-8 but have since gone 4-2 with the win in Morgantown.
So it looks as if this rollercoaster that is Big 12 basketball still has a few more twists and turns for the Cowboys.
“This league is unforgiving,” Boynton said. “I think everybody this time of year plays with a sense of desperation because there’s an opportunity to put yourself in a better position for whatever it is that you’re doing moving forward, whether it be conference standings and positioning for the conference tournament or a postseason bid or seeding for a postseason bid. What we gotta do is we just gotta understand that we play against the best competition in the country ever day. It’s a grind to go through this league.”