Eight minutes was just shy of enough.
That was the amount of atrocious basketball the Oklahoma State men’s basketball team played against Kansas. The run nearly allowed the Jayhawks to make a 16-point second-half comeback, which would’ve been the Cowboys’ third game in which they blew a late lead.
But instead, OSU made sure the last minute of the game counted, picking up a top-six victory. Apparently, the Cowboys seem to enjoy making every home game a nail biter.
Here are three thoughts from the latest one:
Pretty, pretty first half
Before OSU fans were overwhelmed with anxiety down the stretch, the first half was the Cowboys’ best period of the season. It’s up there with the best halves of OSU basketball against a real opponent I can remember in my four years here.
The Cowboys were clicking on all cylinders. Cade Cunningham was getting whatever he wanted. The role players were making shots from the outside. OSU was sprinting up and down the court to the tune of a whopping 24 fastbreak points.
On defense, its 1-3-1 zone was run to near perfection. The Cowboys were rotating on a string and almost always in the right place aside from the occasional lapse underneath. That’s where Kansas was getting its best looks, isolating David McCormack in the post against a player who had little chance of guarding him one on one. He alone kept the Jayhawks in the game.
Off steals and defensive rebounds, OSU raced up the court.
That’s this OSU team at its best. Its full potential will only be reached when they can get in transition and hit shots in the half-court.
I wrote down in my notes during the first half, “I wonder how they’ll respond when they stop making shots in the second half… cause that will happen.” That did happen, and the answer was not very well. But they pulled it out in the end by the skin of their teeth.
Cade Cunningham’s on/off switch
Mike Boynton has explained before that Cunningham generally likes to feel the game out early on. His priority is to make the right play and get his teammates going, flipping the switch into attack mode until crunch time.
Postgame, Boynton said the thing that makes Cunningham special is the belief he has in his teammates. Bryce Williams aggressively chimed in on a reporter’s question to Cunningham about his low-scoring game against Kansas State, essentially saying scoring is the least of Cunningham’s problems and he should never be judged off his point total.
I agree with all of this. Cade is a special player not only because of his talent but because of his unselfishness. I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t want to play with him.
However, I feel kind of torn on this issue. It’s probably an overreaction to the start of the game when Cunningham was making Kansas defenders look silly, but I wonder what it would look like for him to be in attack mode like that for a higher percentage of a game.
Him playing that way all the time won’t happen. Neither Boynton or Cunningham himself would let it. But he is so talented. So talented that he can get a shot whenever he wants and put it in the basket no matter how good the defense is.
In virtually every game, he will be the best player on the court. I’ll be interested to see if and how his game changes in that aspect as the season goes on.
Avery Anderson and Bryce Williams
I just wanted to add a quick hits about Avery Anderson and Williams.
If Anderson ever guarded me in a pickup game, I would have a mental breakdown. Anderson is known defensively for his lateral quickness and ball pressure, but he absolutely tormented Kansas’ Bryce Thompson at the end of the first half.
As for Williams, he is by far the purest athlete on OSU’s roster. His dunks on a fast break are never casual, he puts on a show. In this game, his windmill slam was absolutely disgusting, and his Dennis Smith Jr.-esque bounce alley-oop to himself at the buzzer was completely unnecessary, but completely awesome.