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Shooting struggles doom Oklahoma State in Round of 32

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NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament - Second Round

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 21: The Oklahoma State Cowboys take on the Oregon State Beavers in the second round of the 2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament held at Hinkle Fieldhouse on March 21, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Brett Wilhelm/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

The Cowboys tried to come back, they nearly did.

Keylan Boone and Cade Cunningham made back-to-back threes in 11 seconds to cut Oregon State’s lead to just three. It was a new ballgame with 3:42 left, but then things went south.

Avery Anderson III missed two layups and a 3-pointer, Boone missed two threes, Mathew-Alexander Moncrieffe missed two free throws, Cunningham missed a jumper and a three and Rondel Walker missed a three. By the time Cunningham made three free throws to snap the 3:18 scoring drought, the Beavers were up 11 and the game was already over.

“I think we just didn't make very many shots that we usually make,” Cunningham said. “There were a bunch of shots we should have hit.”

Oklahoma State shot just 27% from the field and 68% from the free-throw line. When a team has as bad of an offensive day as that, it’s going to be hard to win. To make things worse, Oregon State is on fire right now.

The Beavers shot 41% from the field and made 32 of its 35 free throws. That’s good for 91% as a team. That alone would usually spell doom, but to make things worse, the Cowboys faced a 14-point halftime deficit.

Oregon State went on a 28-10 run for a majority of the first half, and that caused The Cowboy offense to go into panic mode.

“I think we started playing desperately on offense too early,” Cunningham said. “They made a couple shots and I feel like we started playing like it was the end of the game, kind of started jacking up passes and possessions too early on. We kind of got away from ourselves and who we are.”

Oklahoma State’s offense went cold at the absolute worst time. It was a struggle to get consistent offense in each of its two tournament games, and today it was too much to overcome. The fouling today didn’t help either.

There were 53 fouls called Sunday and 73 free throws attempted. That’s almost two free throws every minute.

“We played on our heels a lot,” coach Mike Boynton said. “That's just not who we are. It's not how we've had success. That was the most shocking part to me is that we were kind of slow to the ball on rebounding. We didn't really get out in transition.”

Cunningham scored 24 in what one would assume is his final game as a Cowboy. In just his one year in Stillwater, he has cemented his legacy as one of the best to put on the Cowboy uniform. It wasn’t the end that anyone hoped for, but Cunningham is incredibly thankful for his time at Oklahoma State.

“I think we just fouled too much,” Cunningham said. “They were trying to sell fouls. We were getting a bunch of stops. They got a bump, they would throw their head back, they'll call a foul. They got scoring at the free-throw line.”

Now for the Cowboys, the question is what will this offseason bring?

Cunningham is leaving, Bryce Williams has a decision to make and Boynton’s name has come up a lot in new coach searches across the NCAA. This offseason will shape Cowboy basketball for the foreseeable future.

“The truth of the matter is, even if it's just Cade, our team will not be the same next year,” Boynton said. “So this will be the last time that these guys get a chance to compete. The thing I told them was, the thing I'm most disappointed in is I don't get to coach them again as a group. I don't get to see them at practice tomorrow.”