It’s going to be an emotional, insane atmosphere inside Gallagher-Iba Arena tomorrow as seniors Jeffrey Carroll and Mitchell Solomon finish their four-year regular-season careers as Cowboys.
The duo, along with graduate transfer Kendall Smith, could potentially play their final game inside the hallowed arena. (They may host a game if they miss the NCAA Tournament and are a high enough seed in the NIT.)
In the final regular season game, Mike Boynton and the Cowboys are looking to complete the season sweep of the Jayhawks for the first time since Bill Self took over as head coach in 2003. Yes, you read that right.
They are also looking to continue the recent dominance the Cowboys have had in Stillwater. The Cowboys have won three of the last four matchups in GIA, with the lone blemish coming last year with a 90-85 loss against the No. 1 team in the nation.
Who: Kansas Jayhawks (24-6, 13-4 Big 12)
Where: Gallagher-Iba Arena, Stillwater, OK
When: March 3, 3:00 p.m. CT
Radio: Cowboy Radio Network
Live Stats: okstate.statbroadcast.com
With Kansas wrapping up its 14th consecutive Big 12 regular season title, the Jayhawks don’t really have a lot to play for in Stillwater. However, it appears Bill Self will have his team full steam ahead against Big 12 rookie Mike Boynton.
Bill Self doesn’t care that KU has the league wrapped up. All systems go for Saturday against Oklahoma State. The Jayhawks are going to treat it like they would any other game. #kubball— Rock Chalk Blog (@RockChalkBlog) March 1, 2018
Last time, the Cowboys went into Lawrence with a 3-game losing streak, and had lost four of their last five. However, it didn’t stop the Cowboys from handing Kansas a stunning 84-79 loss.
Kendall Smith dropped 24 points along with five rebounds and five assists. Cam McGriff had one of his best games of the season, scoring 20 points and securing nine boards while avoiding foul trouble in Lawrence - something unheard of for opposing players having career games.
We were also treated with one of the best radio calls I’ve ever heard in my life.
Since that game, Kansas has gone 6-1, only dropping a game to Baylor in Waco.
Devonte’ Graham scored 17 points and had eight assists for the Jayhawks, Udoka Azubuike had 20 points and Svi Mykhailiuk also had 17 points. The Jayhawks were limited to 46.7 percent shooting from the field and 36.4 percent from beyond the arc.
The Cowboys are looking for another strong defensive effort to limit the Jayhawks’ explosive offense.
In the last five games, Oklahoma State is allowing 75.8 points per game while only scoring 71. Mike Boynton’s team will have to get back to the basics if they hope to defeat Kansas. With the game nearly sold out, GIA will be loud and crazy, something the Cowboys seem to thrive on this season.
Azubuike and Graham are the Jayhawks’ 1-2 punch, and will likely lead the team yet again. However, if the Cowboys are forced to play the foul game, Azubuike is a prime target to send to the line. The sophomore center struggles at the charity stripe, converting just over 42 percent of his attempts.
When the Cowboys took down the Jayhawks, they did it without Tavarius Shine. While Shine hasn’t had any incredible games since returning from injury, he is always good for a handful of points and a few rebounds. In a game where the Cowboys will likely need every point they can get, Shine may just be the one to give the Cowboys the boost they need off the bench.
Keys to the Game
Pound the ball inside.
Mitchell Solomon has undoubtedly had his best season in a Cowboy uniform this year. The Bixby native is constantly referred to as the Cowboys’ “MVP” by his coach. If Solomon and Yankuba Sima can get the game going inside the paint early, it will open up the rest of the floor for Lindy Waters and the rest of the shooters.
Stay out of foul trouble.
Kansas had 36 points in the paint during the last matchup. Solomon fouled out and Sima had four fouls. I’m sure those two facts had nothing to do with each other.
We know that Graham and Azubuike are going to attack the basket. If the Cowboys’ bigs can stay out of foul trouble, that would be advantageous.
Stay in attack mode.
This is one of the more startling traits of the Cowboys. They get off to great starts, build huge leads, then take their foot off the pedal. They start playing sloppy basketball and allow teams back into games they shouldn’t ever be in.
This can’t happen against Kansas. No lead is safe. Last game, OSU outrebounded the Jayhawks 41-28, including a 16-10 advantage on the offensive boards which led to 26 second-chance points. In front of a full arena, the Cowboys need to keep up the intensity from the opening tip to the final buzzer.
Push the tempo — but take care of the ball.
In the narrow wins against West Virginia and Texas Tech, Bill Self turned into Tom Thibodeau with his players. Only seven Jayhawks saw the floor, with each starter playing 29 minutes or more out of 40 total (not counting overtime).
If the Cowboys can keep the game close, and play fast and push the ball like they like to, it could be trouble for KU. Self clearly doesn’t trust his bench, only putting them in out of necessity or in blowouts. Mike Boynton’s squad should take advantage and push the tempo and tire Kansas out. However, they need to not turn the ball over while they push the tempo. Currently, the Cowboys are turning the ball over 13.3 times per game, 202nd best in the nation. Kansas forces 13.2 turnovers per game. The Pokes can’t afford to give away possessions.
This isn’t just another game for the Cowboys. They are playing for their NCAA Tournament lives. If they drop this game, they would need to win the Big 12 tournament to get into the Big Dance.
Kansas isn’t going to roll over. They are essentially locked into the Tournament, however, they are playing for a No. 1-seed and less travel in the second and third rounds of the tournament. Bill Self is also playing to keep a historic record intact — never being swept by a conference team in a single season at Kansas.
As we are now officially in March, remember, anything can happen. It should be a great game on national television to wrap up the Big 12 regular season. What better way to send off the seniors than with a sweep against one of the bluebloods of college basketball?