On Friday night, No. 4-seeded Oklahoma State won their first March Madness game since 2009 over No. 13-seeded Liberty Flames, 69-60. Leading the way for the Cowboys was Avery Anderson, finishing with 21 points, while Cade Cunningham found his rhythm in the second half, adding in 15 points.
While the game remained close throughout due to OSU not finding their offensive rhythm until late, the Cowboys will now look ahead to Sunday night, with a Round of 32 matchup against No. 12-seeded Oregon State Beavers.
Like Oklahoma State, Oregon State broke their March Madness win drought, winning their first game since 1982, after defeating No. 5-seeded Tennessee, 70-56. While many may look at this matchup as the battle of the OSU’s, Oklahoma State will have to focus on a few key weaknesses to exploit to make it to their first Sweet 16 since 2005.
No. 1: Share the sugar
It hasn’t been a secret that Oklahoma State has been inconsistent with their team ball movement. Some games have felt as if the entire offense revolves around a Cade Cunningham isolation, or even just Kalib Boone in the post. While it may be effective at times, the times where the Cowboys offense is at its peak is when the ball moves side to side.
When it comes to Oregon State’s defense, they begin to show their cracks the most when the ball is being moved around quickly. In every Beaver loss this season, Oregon State has allowed 14.4 assists per game, compared to just 11.2 in their wins. For a team like Oregon State that ranks 219thin the NCAA in defensive rating, Oklahoma State must capitalize on any communication mistakes, as well as continuing to move without the ball to make the most of their opportunities.
No. 2: Get in the passing lanes
Oregon State has not been known to be one of the top offensive teams in the nation. While ranking 11thin the Pac-12 and 193rdin the NCAA in points per game, this will be a test for Oklahoma State to prove themselves for a tough journey ahead. One of the main culprits for the Beavers offensive struggles have come from their turnovers. In games where the Beaves commit 15 or more turnovers, Oregon State has gone 1-5 on the season.
Luckily for Oklahoma State, disrupting the passing lanes has been one of their biggest strengths throughout their recent 7-2 run, averaging 6.9 steals per game. As the Cowboys may want to also put an emphasis on limiting their turnovers, Oregon State has shown that once they begin to commit turnovers, it’s tough for them to be able to compete.
No. 3: Limit the fouls
Oklahoma State has been up and down when it comes to getting opposing teams to the free throw line. In OSU’s last loss against Texas, Texas was able to take advantage of getting to line, shooting 28 of 36. While OSU limited Liberty to only 13 free throw attempts Friday, Oregon State will look to be aggressive, and force their way to the free throw line. As spoken about earlier, the Beaver offense is far from elite, compared to other teams in the NCAA tournament, but they will live and die by the free throw line.
The magic number for the Cowboys to limit Oregon State’s free throw attempts is 12. Throughout games where Oregon State shot 12 or less free throws, the Beavers went 2-6. In those eight games, the offense was at its worst, averaging just 62.4 points per game, compared to 73.7 when getting more than 12 attempts. As Oklahoma State’s 2-3 zone has been vulnerable to committing shooting fouls in the paint, Coach Mike Boynton must emphasize to his players to not let the Beavers live at the free-throw line all game.