NORMAN – Orange jerseys were circling the perimeter with Michael Weathers searching for one to toss the ball to.
Weathers was planted on the right wing, waiting for a teammate to spring open. Oklahoma’s defenders remained plastered in the face of each Cowboy, so with the shot clock winding down, Weathers set his feet, gathered and shot. It deflected off the glass, missing the rim, and Sooner forward Kristian Doolittle corralled the rebound and fired an outlet pass to freshman guard Jamal Bieniemy.
He sprinted on the break as the orange jerseys filed back on defense. When Bieniemy reached the 3-point line, he fired a left-handed pass into the cutting Brady Manek’s hands. There was no one between he and the basket, as Manek slammed home a two-handed dunk to send the Lloyd Noble Center into a frenzy.
The sequence was marginal in the Oklahoma State basketball team’s 74-64 loss against No. 23 OU on Saturday. For most of the contest, the Cowboys generated strong looks offensively after struggling in their Big 12 opener. Against the Sooners, shots simply weren’t falling.
“We got several good looks, I thought,” OSU coach Mike Boynton said. “Just didn’t go down today, and I thought our defense, again, held us down for a long while. We had a few breakdowns late in the game, which, they happen from time to time, but we’ve gotta get back and get better.”
In half-court sets, OSU (6-8 overall, 0-2 Big 12) was effective in running off-ball screens to get shooters open. The orange jerseys with Cowboys emblazoned on the chest were constantly scattered throughout the court, yet the players sporting them struggled to get the ball in the cylinder.
No Cowboy shot more than 50 percent from the field while captain Thomas Dziagwa and freshmen Yor Anei and Isaac Likekele were at the number. Michael Weathers missed nine baskets, eight of those being layups, Curtis Jones was 1-of-10 from the field and Cameron McGriff couldn’t convert on his five 3-point attempts.
OSU shot 34.4 percent from the field and 23.1 percent from deep, a stat it led the Big 12 in coming into the matchup. The Sooners (12-2, 1-1) also struggled, shooting only 36.2 percent. In fact, there were more combined fouls (45) than made shots (43).
Lindy Waters picked up his third foul with 14:13 left in the first half and sat for the remainder of it. McGriff, Anei, Dziagwa, Likekele and Jones committed two fouls in the opening period.
OU feasted at the free-throw line, connecting on 17 of their 22 attempts. For the game, OU tallied 25 points at the stripe while OSU garnered only 14 on 21 attempts. Dziagwa said the plethora of foul calls in the first half could have come from nerves.
“I think it was just, I don’t jitter, but in a rivalry game, maybe that’s why guys are fouling and maybe a little bit overaggressive,” Dziagwa said. “Guys just had to settle in and play basketball.”
The Sooners sported a six-point advantage heading to the second half before increasing it to 10 only 50 seconds in. OSU responded with a 7-0 run before OU quickly increased its lead to nine. Boynton called a 30-second timeout, and the following four possessions resulted in Cowboy baskets which narrowed the OU lead to 51-50.
Anei tallied the final bucket of the stretch on an and-1 opportunity, but he missed the free throw. The Cowboys again trailed by one after Dziagwa hit a 3 to make it 54-53, but the Sooners expanded their lead after and wouldn’t relinquish it.
“I think we just lost a little bit of focus on defense,” Weathers said. “What coach’s message is, is toughness and discipline. We tried to implement that in our gameplan, but sometimes when we go out there, we can lose lack of focus and lack of discipline.”
Because of the foul trouble, Maurice Calloo played 17 minutes and tallied eight points while garnering seven rebounds. Boynton complimented his work in practice, saying the past two weeks have been Calloo’s best.
Likekele, though a starter, played only six minutes. Anei scored six points yet played 14 minutes because of foul trouble.
The Cowboys are a young team, but 14 games in, Dziagwa said it can’t continue to be used as a crutch.
“Youth is not an excuse anymore,” Dziagwa said. “We played enough ball games. I think it’s just coming down to our really digging in and competing and everyone doing their job.
“Here going forward, we’re at a crossroad where we either have to choose to stay focused on everything or not.”
OSU’s next contest is Tuesday against Texas. Boynton agreed with his captain, saying the Longhorns won’t feel sorry for the younger team learning the difficulties of playing in the Big 12 Conference.
“Youth (isn’t) an excuse,” Boynton said. “You gotta play basketball. You put it on, and you’re either ready or you’re not. We just have to play better, it’s quite simple.”