Oklahoma State’s first 14 games of the season are in the books, and thus far, it’s been a tale of two halves.
The first seven games saw OSU go undefeated, with a couple of impressive neutral court performances against Syracuse and Ole Miss and a road victory at Charleston. During that 7-0 start the Cowboys were averaging 74.2 points per game and holding opponents to 58.4.
Then, starting point guard Isaac Likekele comes down with an “undisclosed illness” (MONO) and the Cowboys slogged through a 2-5 stretch. The offense sees their points-per-game drop to 62.1 ppg, while opponents’ average rises to 67.5.
That comes to a head with a horrible start to Big 12 play where the Cowboys score a combined 91 points, their lowest two-game output since February of 2006 (93 combined points in losses to Texas A&M and Kansas). The 41 points put up against West Virginia were the fewest since the Cowboys scored just 37 against Kansas back in March of 1999.
It’s turned a fanbase that had finally bought into basketball for the first time in nearly six seasons, into one questioning Coach Boynton’s abilities.
So what is going on with OSU?
It ain’t great. At this point, only two players are averaging double digit points per game; Lindy Waters (12.9) and Isaac Likekele (11.2).
The freshman class has yet to have someone step up and become a reliable contributor. Avery Anderson might be the closest, averaging 4.7 ppg and 1.4 assists, and a ton of energy and athleticism off the bench, but that comes with a 34.8 field goal percentage and 1.9 turnovers a game.
Despite all of that, things are far from lost.
The loss of Likekele, which coincided with a far more difficult stretch of games than the first seven, not only cost OSU it’s best defender, it left them without their only true point guard on the roster.
While Likekele may be back on the court, no one could watch him perform in the last two games and say he looks like the guy who was slashing and dishing against teams before he got sick.
Missing Dizagwa against West Virginia meant the Cowboys were without their best shooter against a really good defensive team. Throw in an historically bad shooting night from beyond the arch, and it lead to another double-digit loss.
And again, it’s not like OSU has been playing push-overs during this seven game stretch. They opened Big 12 play against two really good defensive teams. The Red Raiders are only allowing teams to shoot 39.2%. The Mountaineers are even better, allowing just 36.2% of opponents’ shots to fall. These are two top-50 defenses nationally.
This team isn’t perfect. They’re not a great shooting team. They don’t have a reliable back-up point guard. The make-up of the roster is on Coach Boynton and the rest of the staff.
The team’s lack of ball movement when shots aren’t falling is something that has to be corrected, and quickly. They need to play to their strengths more — which is not the 3-ball — and at least one freshman has to step up.
But this team is not lost and neither is this season.
If a healthy OSU, not going through a shooting slump, is still losing games by double digits, against middle and bottom of the pack Big 12 teams, in late January, then we can have a real come-to-Jesus conversation about this team. But until they can get their five-man starting rotation healthy, I’m going to trust that this Cowboys team we’ve seen the last seven games, isn’t the real team.