Brad Underwood has compiled a 93-15 coaching record because he expects his teams to win when they take the court. But it was inevitable that his first loss as head coach of the Oklahoma State would come sooner rather than later considering the schedule he put together in his first year leading the Cowboys.
Underwood and the Cowboys suffered their first loss of the 2016-17 season Tuesday night when they faced a superior North Carolina team in a semifinal game of the Maui Jim Maui Invitational in Hawaii. The fourth-ranked Tar Heels showed their superiority in a 107-75 victory over the Cowboys.
“Well, I think it was a pretty good wake-up call,” Underwood said. “It’s one of those nights where we got off to a really bad start. We had to try to do some things defensively to get them off their spots, and we only did that at times.”
OSU, now 4-1, will face Georgetown, 2-3, in the third-place game of the tournament at 6:30 p.m. (CST) Wednesday.
“The beauty of this tournament is you beat a UConn team in the first round and you get maybe arguably the best team in the country in North Carolina, a team that played in the national championship a year ago. And then by golly what do you get rewarded with, you get Georgetown the next night,” Underwood added.
“Couldn’t ask for anything better. We’re going to find out who we are. It’s important that these guys continue to grow. Georgetown is going to give us a different presence than what we saw tonight. I’m excited. I think we’re opportunities away, we’re shots away, we’re a defensive-mindset still away … we have to look in the mirror. When things are hard and somebody punches you, you’ve got to see how you react.”
A day after forcing its frantic defensive pressure in a first-round victory over UConn, OSU suffered the same fate from North Carolina as the Tar Heels led from start to finish. UNC raced out to a 16-4 lead in the first few minutes and the Cowboys never made a game out of it.
If not for Jawun Evans the Cowboys would have been blown out in the first half. But thanks to his 20-point performance while playing 17 minutes in the first half the Cowboys only trailed 51-38 at halftime.
The 6-1 sophomore guard was 9-of-16 shooting from the field and made 1 of 2 free throws in the first half on his way to scoring more than half of the Cowboys points. However, the rest of the team was 4-for-21, including making just one of nine three-pointers, for just 18 points.
Evans was the Cowboys only real scoring threat, finishing with 30 points on 13-of-25 shooting. Lindy Waters was the only other Cowboy in double figures with 10 points.
Phil Forte entered the game averaging 21 points but was held to just two points on a pair of free throws (he missed all three of his field goal attempts). It was the fewest points he had scored in a game since being held scoreless against Texas Tech on Feb. 28, 2015
“It was a tough night for Phil. Just trying to get him going and getting him opportunities (was tough),” Underwood said. “We became disjointed and that’s something I didn’t like. We’ve got to find out when things get really hard who we are, and we’ve got to learn to grow from that.”
After not allowing any of their first four opponents to shoot better than 47.2 percent the Cowboys couldn’t slow down North Carolina. The Tar Heels were 37-of-64 shooting (57.8 percent) en route to the resounding victory, while the Cowboys shot a season-low 36.1 percent (26 of 72).