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RECAP: Oklahoma State beats UConn 98-90, advances to Maui Invitational Semifinal

Oklahoma State advances to the Maui Invitational Semifinals after beating UConn 98-90.

NCAA Basketball: Maui Invitational-Oklahoma State at Connecticut Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Brad Underwood era at Oklahoma State is off to a 4-0 start after beating the Connecticut Huskies 98-90 on Monday night.

Tonight’s game featured 84 free throws (!), 58 fouls (!!), and 188 points (!!!). Fouls dictated nearly every aspect of this game, especially in the second half. More on that later.

The Cowboys opened the game on an 18-3 run, and showcased a defensive intensity that we haven’t seen at Oklahoma State in a long time. In the first half, OSU forced 13 UConn turnovers and scored 17 points off of them. The Cowboys shot 60 percent from three on 12-20 shooting. It was the Huskies who surprisingly had a higher FG percentage, shooting 47.2 percent to Oklahoma State’s 45.9 percent.

The Cowboys will face the winner of North Carolina and Chaminade.

Let’s move on to some thoughts I had throughout tonight’s impressive showing from the Pokes.

Fouls are ruining the flow of college basketball.

Let’s get this out of the way now. Yes, there were some real fouls in tonight’s game. Probably more than usual. 58 fouls were called and completely altered the flow of the game. This has been a complaint of mine about college basketball for a while, but this is just the latest example. That amount of fouls should never be called, regardless of the way the game is being played.

Take this into account: In a 40 minute game, with 58 fouls called, there are 1.45 fouls per minute. If your goal is to invite new viewers to college basketball, turning every game into a free throw contest is probably not the way to go about it.

/rant

Cam McGriff might kill someone this year.

I was absolutely blown away by McGriff’s athleticism For a true freshman, he can jump out of the gym. I don’t think it’s ridiculous to say he might be the Cowboys’ best athlete. After a few missed dunks that made me audibly gasp, McGriff finally connected on one.

McGriff played 27 minutes and finished with 13 points and five rebounds on 50 percent shooting. If OSU can get that kind of production from him, they’ll be a very dangerous team.

Jawun Evans is very good at basketball.

It’s starting to look like the lottery hype is warranted. Evans finished with 35 points, 6 assists, 5 steals, 4 rebounds and ... wait for it ... one turnover. He was the guy for OSU down the stretch, handling the ball on nearly every possession in crunch time.

This sums up my level of confidence in PG1.

Jeff Carroll is OSU’s most improved player, and maybe their most important.

It is very important for OSU to get some production off the bench this season, considering a large chunk of their scoring will come from Evans and Forte. Carroll appears to have accepted that role, and has really grown into a solid player. His role as the sixth man might be the best fit for him, and he was excellent off the bench tonight.

He played 18 minutes with 18 points and 8 rebounds. Impressive stuff from the junior guard.

Freshman continue to grow and impress.

With a coaching change, there will be players that leave and your depth will take a hit and depth will take a hit. More on that in a second. When that’s the case, often times freshman are expected to contribute more. That’s been the case early on this season, and tonight was no different.

Against a pretty solid UConn team, the four OSU freshman (McGriff, N’Guessan, Waters and Everette) collectively played 61 minutes, racked up 14 points, four steals and six rebounds. Not amazing, but pretty solid. They also made plays that don’t show up in the stat sheet.

Exhibit A:

Front court depth is an issue.

We knew this would be a problem, and it was tonight. Of the three “true bigs” that OSU has (Solomon, N’Guessan and Hammonds), only one played 15 minutes tonight. Tonight, those three players logged a total of 34 minutes.

It’s not necessarily Underwood’s style to play big, and having athletes on the court is probably more important than size in this scheme. However, when you go up against the North Carolina’s of the world, which you likely will tomorrow night, you’ve got to have production and quality minutes from your big men. 34 minutes and 14 fouls from those guys tomorrow night will make an upset of North Carolina very, very tough.

This is a big win.

UConn has struggled this season, losing at home to both Wagner and Northeastern. But there is a reason they are playing in Maui. The Huskies team that OSU played tonight was not the same team that showed up to start the season. Rodney Purvis, Amida Brimah and Terry Larrier are all NBA guys. When the NCAA Tournament rolls around, I’ll be surprised if this isn’t in OSU’s “quality win” column.

OSU is already ahead of schedule in Maui.

The Cowboys came in tonight thinking they could probably grab a win. When the tournament was scheduled and the bracket revealed, this game was one that we all circled as a barometer for where the team would be. Yes, it’s early, but they passed a stiff early test tonight.

Now, in all likelihood, they’ll get the fourth-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels as their reward. If they lose, they’re still ahead of schedule. With teams like Wichita State and Maryland still left to play in the non-conference schedule, a loss to North Carolina means absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things. You’re not “supposed” to beat North Carolina.

But this team absolutely can.

If they go out tomorrow and show the same defensive effort they showed tonight, they've got a chance to shock the world. From what we all saw tonight, Jay Bilas seems to think the Pokes have more than a snowball’s chance tomorrow night.

Final Box Score and team stats, courtesy of ESPN.com:

Oklahoma State/Uconn team stats
ESPN.com
Oklahoma State/UConn Box Score
ESPN.com