OSU see­ing ben­e­fits of tough non­league sched­ule

The Cow­boys took their lumps early, but coach says team is im­prov­ing

Tulsa World - - Sports - By Mark Cooper

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

TV: ESPNU

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.”

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