OSU seeing benefits of tough nonleague schedule
The Cowboys took their lumps early, but coach says team is improving
STILLWATER — At first, the phrasing was befuddling. Lindy Waters, fresh off a 19-point, nine-rebound performance in a win over Texas, was asked about Oklahoma State's unsparing nonconference schedule — one that, according to the NCAA's NET ratings, ranks 23rd in the country.
Waters, then OSU coach Mike Boynton, both used the same set of words to describe that schedule. For a team that ranks 297th of 353 Division-I teams in experience, it “set us up for failure.”
“I didn't want them to fail,” Boynton said after the Texas game. “But I put them in MEN'S COLLEGE BASKETBALL
Baylor at Oklahoma State
8 p.m. Monday, Gallagher-Iba Arena, Stillwater
Radio: KFAQ am1170
BAYLOR (9-6, 1-2 BIG 12)
Ht. Pt. Rb.
G Mason 6-1 14.8 2.9 G Butler 6-3 7.0 2.1 G McClure 6-3 9.8 5.3 F Vital 6-5 6.3 7.3 F Kegler 6-7 8.3 6.4
OKLAHOMA STATE (8-8, 2-2) Ht. Pt. Rb.
6-4 8.1 4.6 6-4 10.7 2.9 6-6 11.6 4.9 6-7 13.3 8.1 6-10 6.1 3.9 G G G F F Likekele Dziagwa Waters McGriff Anei
position where things weren't going to be easy. And I wanted to see how they'd respond. We didn't handle it as well as we
could have, as I hoped we would in November and December. But like I talked about all along, the key is trying to be playing better this time of year and moving forward. And I think we are.”
Four days later, OSU produced its best offensive game of the season, scoring 85 points in 67 possessions to take down West Virginia. The Cowboys (8-8, 2-2 Big 12) were picked last in the conference in the preseason, and a poll taken on Jan. 1 would have had them in the basement.
Now, they have a chance to change the perception. Oklahoma State goes for its third consecutive win Monday against Baylor (9-6, 1-2). A victory would put OSU above .500 in Big 12 play for the first time in Boynton's tenure.
It would also continue to validate a nonconference schedule where the Cowboys struggled to a 6-6 record.
“Right now, we're still a .500 team,” Boynton said after the 8577 win over the Mountaineers. “I just told them in the locker room, we're .500 overall, and we're .500 in the league. That won't get you very far at the end of the year. We've got to continue to build on some of the things that we've been doing better and we can't revert back to some of the things that hurt us early.”
Some of the statistics show areas where Oklahoma State has gradually improved from nonconference to league play.
The Cowboys have taken care of the basketball far better in four Big 12 games than in 12 nonconference games.
For the season, they rank 247 th nationally in turnover percentage, giving the ball up on 20.1 percent of possessions. But in Big 12 play, OSU is No. 1 — cutting that number down to 15.1 percent. It had just five turnovers against West Virginia and nine last week at Oklahoma.
Free throw shooting is another area. The Cowboys beat themselves in close losses to Minnesota and Tulsa by shooting 50 percent from the free-throw line. For the year, they still rank 247th.
They're second in league play in free-throw percentage at 73.2. They're also getting to the line at a slightly higher rate.
Oklahoma State shot more free throws than Texas and West Virginia in two wins last week.
One more area of success: 3-point percentage defense. Iowa State, Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia combined to shoot just 22.9 percent from beyond the arc against the Cowboys.
Boynton said last week that while he doesn't pay close attention to field goal percentage defense as a whole, because Oklahoma State's aggressive defense can lead to more attempts close to the basket, he does look at how OSU defends the 3-point line.
All of this goes back to the nonconference schedule. It goes back to mistakes made in November that are trending toward corrections now.
In four of OSU's six nonconference losses (Charlotte, Villanova, Minnesota and Nebraska), it allowed its opponent to shoot better than 40 percent from 3.
In seven of 12 nonconference games, it turned the ball over more than 20 percent of the time.
“We built a schedule that way with some intention,” Boynton said. “We wanted to be playing better now. We took some lumps, and it wasn't pretty. We've got a lot of young guys who probably started to doubt whether they could have success at this level. But I'm proud of the way they've responded. They've handled it all with grace and understanding that we've just got to get better. I do feel like we're getting better.”