Once again, the Cowboys are looking to get their first conference win after falling to Kansas 87-80 in Lawrence in a game that was much closer than most people thought it would be.
This would be a perfect time to get it done and have one great night. Not only would it be the first conference win, it would be the 100th career win for Brad Underwood and also give Gallagher-Iba Arena a victory in its 1000th Cowboy game in its history.
Here are the quick hits for tonight’s matchup against the Kansas State Wildcats.
Wildcats (13-4, 2-3 Big 12) vs. Cowboys (10-7, 0-5 Big 12)
Time: 8:00 p.m. CST
Location: Gallagher-Iba Arena, Stillwater, Oklahoma
Stream: WatchESPN.com (requires provider login)
Live Stats: okstate.statbroadcast.com
Last season, Kansas State was near the bottom of the Big 12, finishing only two conference games ahead of Oklahoma State with a conference record of 5-13. This year, the Wildcats are still only two games ahead of the Cowboys in conference play, owning a 2-3 record in the Big 12.
When Justin Edwards graduated, the Wildcats lost not only their leading scorer, but also their leader in rebounds and steals per game. Other than Edwards, the Wildcats didn’t really lose all that much. Keeping a team mostly intact is always a nice thing to have, and that’s what the Wildcats have done this year.
Players to Watch:
After the departure of Edwards, the frontcourt duo of Wesley Iwundu and D.J. Johnson appear to be stepping into the leadership roles for the Wildcats.
Iwundu, a senior, has been with the Wildcats his whole career, and has been a headache for the Pokes every season. I picked him for this week’s MVP Draft. Here’s what I had to say about Iwundu.
Not just a cool name to say, Iwundu is making solid contributions for the Wildcats this season. On the season, he is averaging almost 12 ppg (13 in conference play), and 5 rpg. He also has 58 dimes this season, good for second best on the team. While Iwundu isn't leading the team in any categories, he is a good all-around player and a stat sheet stuffer.
Johnson, a redshirt senior, hasn’t been a walk in the park for the Cowboys in recent years either. Johnson is shooting an astounding 62.8% from the floor, which is best on the team (unless you want to count Mason Schoen, who has hit three of his four attempts this season). Johnson is also the leading rebounder and blocker, and is a measly 0.1 points per game from tying Barry Brown for the lead at 12.1 ppg.
Three Big Things:
1. Right the ship.
This is the first game that Cowboy fans should have no reason not to believe we can win. This team isn’t playing that well in conference play either, and their two wins they have are over Texas (who I’m still upset we lost to, but that’s for another day), and Oklahoma (who we haven’t played yet). We had a very tough front loaded Big 12 schedule. Granted, Baylor was a surprise nobody saw coming in the beginning of the year, but when you have to play West Virginia, Baylor, Kansas, and Iowa State in the first five conference games, you are likely going to have a tough time. Now is the time to start turning it around. The next four conference games are K-State, Texas Tech, TCU, and OU. The combined conference records for these teams are 8-12. The combined records of our first five conference foes? 19-10. Take out Texas and the record becomes 18-5. We played the top half of the Big 12 early, which sucks, but now it’s time for the bottom half. Let’s go out and start getting some wins and building up confidence.
2. Look for backdoor cuts.
I don’t know if we have faced a team that stopped our backdoor cuts all season, let alone in conference play. Maybe UNC did. I don’t know. I don’t want to think about that game. We are able to get cuts like this in every game.
So don’t waste them. We are good at doing it, so let’s keep doing it.
3. Take good shots.
After the loss to Kansas, Brad Underwood was asked what he thought of the Cowboys’ shot selection. Here’s what he had to say.
"We are who we are. We have been a team which has been limited to being able to throw the ball in to the post ... but for the most part we are OK with our shot selection."
Jawun Evans hasn’t been the same player we have seen in the non-conference, and can’t seem to hit his floater anymore. I personally would like to see him shoot less, at least until he gets his shot back, but that apparently isn’t part of Underwood’s plan.
“Jawun (Evans) is a guy who we lean on a lot. I think he took 20 shots; he's got a make more than he misses...It is hard when you're not into a flow and a rhythm. But Jawun is good and I don't put too much into that. We are going to lean on him very heavily.”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Evans is taking bad shots, but when you are shooting 6-22 from the floor, and your shot chart looks like the one below, maybe try and spread the ball around and look for an open guy who is knocking them down a little better that night.