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Notebook: Early on, Cowboys are learning the ways of the Big 12

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Cade Cunningham

Cade Cunningham is announced during starting lineups before Oklahoma State's loss to West Virginia in Gallagher-Iba Arena on January 4, 2021.

Oklahoma State is coming off of a heartbreaking loss to West Virginia and has now turned its focus to Kansas State.

Here is what the team said in the final media availability before travelling to Manhattan, Kansas to take on Kansas State:

An improved Kansas State team

Coach Bruce Weber and Kansas State did not get off to a good start this season. The Wildcats started the season 1-4 including a 13-point loss to Division II Fort Hays State. Since that slow start, the Wildcats have improved to 5-7 overall.

Despite the Wildcats’ slow start and losing two straight, coach Mike Boynton knows that Weber has a talented team that will put two youthful teams against each other on Saturday.

“I think this team is getting better,” Boynton said. “They're much better today than they were a month ago. I expect them to be better a month from now than they are today. It's a credit to his staff and the guys commitment to their team. We'll have a challenge. It's not like we've got a bunch of old guys running around here either.

“They'll be tough to compete with. Davion Bradford, who we recruited for awhile, he's a load in there and he's getting more comfortable as the games go along. They've got some really, really athletic players and guys who can really shoot it.”

Bernard Kouma’s progression

The Cowboys are set with depth at the guard positions, but that isn’t the same for the center position. For most of the season, the Cowboys have made due with one true center, Kalib Boone, getting the majority of playing time.

However, recently Bernard Kouma has seen a rise in playing time and has even seen some starts. While Boone has seen some recent struggles, Kouma has progressed into a depth piece for the Cowboys at the center spot.

“Oh, Bernard man, I mean everyone wants to say this, but Bernard is honestly one of the hardest working bigs I've probably ever played with or been around,” Boone said. “Bernard has sacrificed a lot and he's a great teammate. All he does — he's a caring, loving person. He's always willing to listen, no matter how you talk to him.

“He doesn't listen to the tone of the message, he listens to just the words and what you're saying to him. He's always willing to get better. I see the progressions, from when he got here until now and I'm just proud of him.”

Big 12 play teaching the freshmen

The Big 12 has proven early it is one of the deepest, competitive conferences for the 2020 season. The Cowboys are all too familiar with the tight games and for them, they’ve been on the wrong side of those games more times than not.

However, those close games have proven beneficial to the young roster of the team, teaching them the way of the conference early and allowing them to adjust.

“I feel like if you're a competitor, you love every game in the Big 12,” Rondel Walker said. “It's definitely everything I expected it to be. There's no just cake walks. Every game is a dog fight. I feel like being a college basketball player, that's what you sign up to play college basketball for and to eventually go to the next level. I feel like there's no better conference to do that at than the Big 12.”

Kalib Boone’s struggles

Boone’s role increased at the beginning of the year, being the Cowboys go-to big man, but recent struggles, especially with fouls, in conference play has limited his time on the court.

With those recent struggles, Boone has struggled with confidence on the floor, and he still hasn’t found his rhythm again. With the Cowboys schedule including teams with well-rounded inside players, the Cowboys need Boone to be back to being a reliant rim protector.

"Honestly, not really (close to being myself on the court),” Boone said. “But that's my fault, because I'm not doing the things for me to get back in rhythm. I'm thinking that it's going to magically click, but it's not. I've just got to go do the things for me to help it click. The more I start doing the stuff again, the more I feel it, but right now, it's not all the way there yet."

sports.ed@ocolly.com