Tough sched­ule test­ing for young Cow­boys

The Oklahoman - - SPORTS | BUSINESS - Nathan Ruiz [email protected]­la­homan.com

STILLWATER — Mike Boyn­ton rec­og­nized this pos­si­bil­ity when he built Ok­la­homa State’s sched­ule.

The Cow­boys’ coach knew that he would be test­ing a large group of fresh­men when he re­vamped a non­con­fer­ence sched­ule that a sea­son ago ranked among the 50 eas­i­est in col­lege bas­ket­ball and ar­guably kept OSU out of the NCAA Tour­na­ment be­cause of how light it was.

As un­de­feated Hous­ton heads to Stillwater for a matchup Satur­day, OSU sits at 4-4 for the first time since the 1987-

88 sea­son. Wed­nes­day’s 74-71 de­feat at Tulsa was far from the most chal­leng­ing game on OSU’s early sea­son slate, but it was the Cow­boys’ sixth game away from home in their first eight. Af­ter­ward, Boyn­ton ex­pressed no re­gret over build­ing what to this point has been the na­tion’s 41st-hard­est sched­ule, third among Big 12 teams.

“I have no de­sire to be the all-time win­ningest coach any­where,” Boyn­ton said. “It’s not part of my mo­ti­va­tion. I didn’t get in this to do that, hall of fames and all that stuff. I’m here to try make kids bet­ter, and they get bet­ter from a bas­ket­ball stand­point by play­ing against good com­pe­ti­tion.

“It doesn’t look good when you’re 4-4 in­stead of 7-1 or 8-0, but I think that once we turn the cal­en­dar our team has gone through th­ese things that we’ll have a bet­ter op­por­tu­nity to have suc­cess later on in the sea­son.”

While OSU is 0-3 in road games, those de­feats all came by seven or fewer points. The close­ness al­most makes the losses sting more, given that the Cow­boys’ num­ber of missed free throws has ex­ceeded the mar­gin of de­feat in each con­test.

“Any­thing that shoots us in the foot, we need to get bet­ter at,” ju­nior Lindy Wa­ters said Wed­nes­day.

Boyn­ton could’ve man­u­fac­tured an 8-0 start through the Cow­boys’ sched­ule but in­stead chose to chal­lenge a group that ranks 307th among 353 teams in ex­pe­ri­ence. OSU en­ters Satur­day’s game ranked in the bot­tom 60 na­tion­ally in both free throw per­cent­age and of­fen­sive turnover per­cent­age. Boyn­ton fig­ures the lat­ter in par­tic­u­lar can be traced to his team’s youth.

“We play like a young team ... but that’s who we are,” he said. “We’re not gonna be able to change the ex­pe­ri­ence num­ber. That num­ber’s gonna be what it is all year. We’re not gonna all of a sud­den add at the trade dead­line or go pick up a cou­ple of older vets and fig­ure out how to take care of the ball bet­ter.

“The kids we have have to get bet­ter, and it’s on our staff to make them bet­ter and help them play bet­ter bas­ket­ball as the sea­son goes along.”

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