Oklahoma State heads back home after a stunning upset victory this past weekend in Morgantown over the West Virginia Mountaineers. The Cowboys took care of the basketball, held one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country to almost five offensive rebounds below their season average, and made their free throws after slumping from the charity stripe recently. You can see the full Cowboys Ride for Free recap here.
This Oklahoma State team is on a roller coaster ride of a season, to say the least. They are beating the ranked teams they face, and losing to the unranked teams. Consistency has been an issue with this team all season, especially on the offensive end, but with the win over the Mountaineers, the Cowboys have put themselves back in the discussion for the NCAA Tournament. But, if they want a spot in the tourney bracket, they have to win this one at home against the Wildcats of Kansas State.
Who: Kansas State Wildcats (17-8, 6-6 Big 12)
Where: Gallagher-Iba Arena - Stillwater, OK
When: February 14, 2018 - 6:00 p.m. CT
Radio: Cowboy Radio Network
Live Stats: okstate.statbroadcast.com
After a four-game winning streak over OU, TCU, Baylor and Georgia, who are all ranked in the KenPom.com top 100, the Wildcats have dropped three of their last four. These losses have all come against the top tier of the Big 12, Kansas at home, West Virginia on the road, and, most recently, Texas Tech at home. The lone K-State win in that stretch came in Austin against the Longhorns. While they have been playing some stiff competition, they’ve been getting it handed to them of late as well. They’ve lost three of their last four games by 14 points or more.
In the Cowboys first meeting with the ‘Cats, K-State was able to take care of the basketball (only eight turnovers), score inside (34 points in the paint), and hold the Cowboys to 28 percent from behind the arc. In addition, Wildcat guard Barry Brown went off for a career high 38 points, with 18 of those coming in the paint. The Pokes put up a fight, winning the rebounding battle and getting solid scoring outings from Jeffrey Carroll and Brandon Averette, but they had too many stretches where they couldn’t generate points on the offensive end... and in turn, it led to a road loss in Manhattan.
Kansas State is not ranked in the AP or Coaches Poll, and they are currently 56th on KenPom.com.
Players to Watch:
As I mentioned, Barry Brown (15.7 ppg and 3.5 apg) was a real issue for the Cowboys last time around. He went 12 of 17 from the field, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range. Oklahoma State was without Tavarious Shine, and they couldn’t find a perimeter defender to contain Brown. He was getting by his man, and finishing strong in the lane. And if the Cowboy defenders backed off him to take away driving lanes, he sunk jumpers right in their faces. It was one of the more impressive showings I’ve seen in Big 12 play this season.
Along with Brown, 6’10 junior forward Dean Wade is the other main scoring threat for Kansas State. He’s averaging a team high 16.2 points per game to go along with 6.4 rebounds per game. Wade only had 10 the last time these two teams met, but he’s an incredibly dangerous scorer who can post you up, as well as hurt you from deep... where he’s shooting 44%.
Junior point guard Kamau Stokes (11.5 ppg and 4.3 apg) will be ready to go in this one. He sat out last time against the Cowboys due to injury. However, it didn’t really matter because his replacement Cartier Diarra torched the Cowboys for 17 points and a team high 4 assists.
Three Big Things:
1. Force Turnovers
Kansas State does not turn the ball over a lot. An average of 11.4 turnovers per game has them currently ranked 32nd in the nation. That being said, the Cowboys only turned the Wildcats over eight times in their first meeting. That is only half of their season average of 15.2 turnovers forced per game. For am Oklahoma State team that relies having on playing fast and scoring in transition, eight turnovers is not going to cut it. The Cowboys have to get the K-State ball handlers uncomfortable and force them into bad decisions. Oklahoma State only had seven points off turnovers in that game, and it’s really tough for this team to win if they aren’t scoring off another team’s mistakes.
2. Sima and Solomon
The Cowboys had an impressive 40 points in the paint the first time these two teams met. That being said, Solomon and Sima only combined for 6 points on 2 of 9 shooting. Both players, especially Solomon, were getting in great position and getting looks at the basket... but they were having trouble finishing. Early on it looked like Solomon could go for 30 with plays like this,
But the big man lost his touch after that. I expect the paint to be open again, and I know Boynton will want to get his bigs involved, so hopefully this time around these guys can find their touch and punish K-State inside.
3. Contain Barry Brown
Brown was an absolute menace against the Pokes the first time around. He scored from everywhere and no one could get him off his rhythm. However, I believe the return of Tavarius Shine will be a huge factor in this Wednesday’s game. Shine usually handles the toughest perimeter defensive assignment for the Cowboys, and that is definitely Brown for K-State. One advantage Shine will have over Brown is length. The Wildcast guard is only 6’3, and the 6’5 Shine with his incredibly long winspan should be able to get the shorter Brown uncomfortable. Brown will still get his, but I don’t think it’s likely he will have anywhere near the field day he had the last time he faced this OKlahoma State squad.
If the Cowboys want to get in the NCAA Tournament, this is a game they have to win. This is the second lowest ranked opponent, according to KenPom, and lowest ranked home opponent they have left on the schedule. I believe the Cowboys have to get to eight conference wins if they want any change of being selected for the Big Dance, and this is the most winnable game they have left. I think the Cowboys come out with a lot of energy and win this one 78 - 71.