The Rundown: Everything Mike Boynton Said after Oklahoma State’s Season-Opening Victory

STILLWATER — Mike Boynton’s team can play in the NCAA Tournament this season, and the Cowboys started said season 1-0.

Oklahoma State beat UT-Arlington 77-66 on Monday in Gallagher-Iba Arena. Here is what Boynton said after the game.

Opening Statement

“Certainly glad to be 1-0. I tell my guys all the time, there’s only one alternative to being 1-0 and it’s always good to avoid that. I thought we played a little tight early when shots didn’t go in the first half. I think guys started to press. We started taking lower quality shots as opposed to the opposite, which we certainly did to start the second half. The thing I was most pleased about during that stretch is it didn’t seem to affect our defensive intensity and our commitment on that end to get stops. And that’s not always easy to do, especially early when you’re coming in and there’s expectations on individual guys and the team to perform on that floor. Obviously going into the off season all the talk about it was our offensive inefficiencies. But we became the No. 4 defensive team by the end of last season, to see our guys still committed to that end and given our offense time to catch up, was good to see. Obviously we were able to put it together for a good stretch to start the second half and got some separation. Feel good about it, but again, obviously a lot to work on.”

On how scary it was to see John-Michael Wright go down on the floor with cramps

“I mean, I don’t know about scary. I’m generally a positive guy, so I don’t always go to the worst, most negative place when things like that happen. And he had cramped before that. He had actually came out. When he got subbed out prior to that, he was cramping and I actually asked if he was good to go back. He felt like it was, but obviously at that point, there’s really nothing you can do unfortunately. That’s all stuff you got to kind of be ahead of. So we talked about it, just got to take care of yourself from a hydration standpoint and the type of stuff you eat as you prepare for a game. Thankful certainly that it’s not anything worse, but it’s obviously a big factor in the game.”

On John-Michael Wright’s presence in the game

“Almost exactly what we hoped it would be, to be honest. You ask, what does he bring. He brings another guy who’s a proven, really good player who can do multiple things on the offensive end and has a calming presence as a primary ball handler, but also has the ability not just as a facilitator for other guys, but you got to guard him because he can score. I mean, he didn’t average 18 (points a game at High Point) by mistake. He averaged 18 because he’s capable, and he’s a pretty good decision maker as well, and he plays with just kind of a good pace about himself. So when things get a little crazy, he can kind of settle things down and he also makes the game easier for Bryce (Thompson) and Avery (Anderson) in all honesty, because he takes pressure off of them having to create so much offense on their own. Then obviously you can put that together with those other two guys once they get going, and you have an inside presence tonight like we had with Kalib (Boone), you got chance to have a team that can compete.”

On he was concerned about the 0-for-11 start from 3-point range

“No, I don’t believe in that. I get it. I can’t be a fan. My job is to trust what we do every day, believe in the guys we have and try to continue to put them in positions to get the shots that they are capable of making. I studied a lot of film on John-Michael Wright and Caleb Asberry as we recruited them. Those guys are gonna make shots for us; watched Avery (Anderson) and Bryce (Thompson) become better shooters over their time here, and they’re gonna make shots for us. So again, I don’t want to say we’re gonna be a 40% 3-point shooting team. They’re going to be nights where we don’t shoot it great. That’s part of the game. They’ll be games where we shoot it much better than we have here in the last couple of years.  You got to find a balance in how you continue to attack offensively when shots from the perimeter aren’t going in. I thought the guys, to their credit, listened to each other at halftime and made a conscious effort of throwing the ball aside and then allowing our defense to create some easy baskets in transition.”

On John-Michael Wright’s calming nature in a game

“Yeah, and it goes to the ability that he’s a good player. We’re thankful to have him. We were very intentional about who we tried to recruit this offseason. I still remember the press conference on March 5, when the season was over and talking about what are you gonna do. We had to address the things that he addresses for us: ball handling, decision making and shot making. And doing it with a guy who has experience and has had success doing it at the college level. It’s one thing to have a freshman out there, just not sure how’s it gonna translate, but the thing about him now is he doesn’t have to take 20 hard shots to get 14 points. It takes eight shots, he gets 14 points and he does that in less than 23 minutes. Plus-23 on the stat sheet is a pretty good night for a kid like that.”

On UT-Arlington’s focus of trying to shutdown Moussa Cisse

“Yeah, they were pretty physical to their credit. A lot of times, you know, you kind of look at the score and you’re like, ‘Why are they only beating…” First of all, the other team’s got good players and they have a coach who’s trying to win also. And that team with that coach, not all the same players, came in there and lost by almost 50 last year. There’s an element of pride also to send your team a message that we’re going to compete. And obviously our fans got a little disturbed about it at the end. But he was sending a message to his team about what they’re going to be about. I respect that, and I was glad to see how our guys responded to that. We didn’t necessarily fall into playing that way, we continued to play the way we play, and it led to us having a double-digit victory on opening night.”

On if 70% if a good mark to improving free-throw shooting

“Yeah, again, I’m a glass-half-full guy most of the time. Talked about having to cut down on our turnovers. We went from 18 to [17]. There’s still a lot of room to grow there. We want to be closer to single digits, as close to that as possible. The game, you’re gonna have some turnovers and then free throws, I think we were 9-for-19 on Thursday in our exhibition, so to get there 27 times and make almost 70 — our goal as a team is 75%. And that’s what we shoot for everyday in practice, because those are points that you have to have when you get to our league and the games are decided by two possessions almost every night. So you have to take advantage of those.”

On Oklahoma State’s transition offense

“We did better. I don’t know what the numbers were. I haven’t looked at our detailed analytics, but I think that it’s going to show that we did a much better job converting in transition. I know that run, it was a lot of transition baskets, that run to start the second half. I don’t have the exact number, but I feel better about it without the benefit of watching the film.”

On Quion Williams being -13

“It was a freshman playing his first college basketball game. And it wasn’t a 50-point game that he could just kind of relax. It was a game, not necessarily in the balance until the end, but it was a close game. There’s a lot of stuff to process for a dude out there. And, it’s not making excuses, it’s just reality, he’s the only [freshman] we have. Like, no one’s feeling sorry for Q, not in our locker room because they’ve all been through it. Avery Anderson looked like Q a few times three years ago, and now we have higher expectations. We don’t need a -13 from him. We need him to be a positive every night. That’s part of the process, and I want to continue to talk about it because I never want to mistake that this stuff really hasn’t changed that much. He’s going to have some moments where you’re like, ‘Holy wow, this kid is gonna be really good.’ And he’s gonna have some -13s. My job is to make sure his -13s aren’t a -13 for us as a team and kind of limit his exposure but give him some opportunities. I was intentional. I could’ve left Moussa in late, but I wanted him in there in a three-possession game with 50 seconds to go. That’s a real moment for him. He’s got to handle the ball. He’s got to make a free throw. He’s got to not turn it over. He’s got to block out and communicate. Those are parts of the process where he’ll get better, and those numbers won’t look like that very often.”

On the guards helping with rebounding

“They’re capable. It’s not what they do naturally. It’s what we talk about in our locker room. We’re fighting the natural. We’re fighting our normal instincts because this team, quite honestly, has high goals. They have things that they want to accomplish, and to do that you kind of have to do things that don’t always come most natural to you. It was a natural thing for Ice [Isaac Likekele] to be a rebounder. He’s always kind of a bigger guard that’s really made his way around the basket, was where he was most effective anyway. These guys kind of hang on the perimeter some. We know that Moussa is not gonna get 17 rebounds every game like he did the other day. The other team is gonna do what they did. They’re gonna put two bodies on him, try to block him out. So, there’s opportunities. Kalib Boone gets four offensive rebounds, almost gets a double-double. And then [Avery Anderson and Bryce Thompson] get the 14 combined — pretty good. It’s about, every game, figure out a way to get the job done as a group. That’s the message we send in practice.”

On Cannen Cunningham being at the game

“It’s well documented how I feel about that family. A lot of it is through Cade, but Cannen and I have a great relationship. We still talk very often. I was thankful to see him. He was in Dallas tonight and wanted to come up and support the guys. He actually worked with several of these guys while he was here. And I believe he hadn’t moved quite yet when Moussa showed up on campus last August, so he had an opportunity to talk to him about the process of getting better because he worked with our bigs while he was here. He made a tremendous impact on our program from a coaching standpoint while he was here.

“Unfortunately, it kind of goes unspoken because — again, his brother was a really good player. If I had to do it over again — I wish I could do it over again, actually. But, he’s a great friend. Their family is a great friend of my family. And he’s a big part of what we’re doing now because, A, he’s a smart basketball guy. He taught me a lot as a coach while he was here, having spent time playing for Larry Brown and Tim Jankovich and then working for Mike Dunleavy, three of the best basketball minds in our game. He brought a wealth of knowledge, and I’m certainly glad he felt comfortable enough to come back and continue to support the guys even though there are a lot of other things he could be doing with his life.”

On Woody Newton

“I though Woody was good. Woody, it’s a matter of finding consistency with him. He played pretty good in our exhibition game on Thursday. He just needs to continue to grow and continue to find his niche on our team. That’s this whole deal all year is each guy individually accepting what their responsibility — we don’t say role, role is a bad word for a basketball guy — but their responsibility for our team. His responsibility is as that kind of hybrid forward, be a good, versatile defender, rebounder and occasionally, if we need him to, be able to make an open shot, and he made a couple today.”

On coaching in a game where the Cowboys could make the NCAA Tournament

“It was great. Obviously, I’m not thinking about it during the game, but I’m very aware of it. And it’s why I’ve been pretty bullish with these guys about not letting this moment pass them. We have a tremendous opportunity to establish the national identity of our program and not with negative headlines about what we cannot do or what we won’t be able to do. This team is really talented, and if they play together consistently we can have a lot of success. I look forward to watching the journey.”