For the first time this season, the Oklahoma State Cowboys men’s basketball team has suffered a three-game losing streak thanks to their most recent set-back in Lubbock. After OSU’s 81-74 loss to the Red Raiders, they stand at 16-7 on the year and just 4-5 in Big 12 play. The squad appears to be struggling to find its rhythm and players still seem unsure about their game-to-game roles. Now, a team that seemed destined to be dancing in March is on the verge of sealing a Madness-less fate.
Saturday’s loss included the return of freshman point guard Ray Penn to the line-up after a 4-game absence, but it did not mark a return to form in terms of ball security. OSU averages about 12-turnovers per game on the season, but that number has jumped to nearly 18-turnovers per game since Penn became saddled with an injured knee. That includes 21 giveaways against Tech, which turned an extremely winnable game into an extremely difficult game to win.
The Pokes have only seven regular season games remaining to improve, what is at the moment, a lackluster resume. Historically, a 9-7 record in the Big 12 has equaled a free pass to the Big Dance and in this year’s landscape, 8-8 might get OSU to the promised land as well with at least one win in the conference tournament. That would mean that the Cowboys would only need to protect home court against Oklahoma, Baylor and Nebraska and find a way to win just one out of road trips to Texas, Iowa State and A&M or a home game against Kansas. While there are potential wins available in that list of games, there are also numerous potential pratfalls.
Travis Ford’s ballclub has certainly not made life easy for themselves, but there are reasons to be optimistic down the stretch. Last season’s squad, Ford’s first in Stillwater, closed out their regular season by winning six of seven. that included wins over Texas and Baylor, but also featured a victory over only one ranked opponent. This year’s stretch run will force the Cowboys to take on three ranked foes.
Ray Penn is back, if not fully healthy. His play against Tech appeared rusty, but was a significant upgrade over the lead guard play OSU has produced in his absence. If Penn can continue to improve on the court while not breaking down physically, this team may be able to regain their form and claim a few big wins.
Matt Pilgrim is starting to live up to his potential. In just 19-minutes on Saturday, he produced 8 points, 12 rebounds and 2 blocked shots. That performance came on the heels of back-to-back impressive outings against Texas and Missouri. The addition of another post presence can be nothing but a good thing for the Pokes, assuming he and Marshall Moses can co-exist.
Perhaps the best news surrounding the OSU program currently is their upcoming week off. They won’t see the floor in game action again until next Saturday’s Bedlam tilt in Stillwater. After the last three performances, this team certainly appears to need plenty of rest and practice.