Cowboys Struggles Continue In Maui

MAUI, Hawaii – Oklahoma State found out what it needs to work on to improve while playing in the Maui Invitational the last three days. The Cowboys are going to need to get better point guard play, shoot the ball better, rebound better … OK, let's just say they need to improve in every phase of the game, especially following their second consecutive blowout loss Wednesday.

Oklahoma State saw its record drop to 2-3 on the season after suffering a 65-49 loss to Illinois in the third-place game of the EA Sports Maui Invitational at the Lahaina Civic Center. The 16-point loss comes on the heels of a 30-point loss (91-61) to 11th-ranked Marquette a day earlier in the semifinals.

The Cowboys shot just 30.6 percent from the field (15 of 49), but at one point late in the second half they had made just 10 of 40 shots. They also turned the ball over 15 times. Wednesday's effort came just a day after shooting 39 percent while committing 19 turnovers against Marquette.

"I think we played two good defensive teams the last two days, and both of them were very aggressive and solid," OSU head coach Sean Sutton said. "It's a valuable lesson for our team to go up against quality defenses early.

"I think that's the thing we take out of this tournament. When you play great competition early in the season they expose your weaknesses, and right now we're not very efficient and very sharp with our half-court offense. Part of that is we don't set good screens, we don't cut (off the screens) hard enough, and that takes more time on the practice court.

"That's kind of a trade-off when you play in a tournament like this. You get the competition and the game experience but you miss out on a lot of valuable practice time. Now we get to go back over the next week and correct a lot of mistakes that we made out here, especially the last two days," Sutton continued.

The Cowboy guards – believed to be the team's strength - struggled in the back-to-back losses the last two days. James Anderson, Byron Eaton, Obi Muonelo and Terrel Harris were combined 13-of-33 from the field against Illinois, and only made 23 of 64 shots (less than 36 percent) in the two losses. They were just 9-of-27 on three pointers, but Anderson was 6-of-10 leaving the other three 3-of-17. The four guards also committed 20 turnovers in the two games.

OSU scored just two points – on its first possession of the game when Marcus Dove slammed home Anthony Brown's missed three-pointer – in the first seven minutes of the game but only trailed 6-2 when Anderson hit a trey from the corner.

Despite scoring just 10 points in the game's first 12 minutes the Cowboys were still in the game late in the first half. But Illinois scored the halves final six points to pull ahead 30-17.

"We've got to learn lessons like at the end of the half when it's a seven-point game," Sutton said. "I thought right there was a huge shift in momentum. We foul (Illinois guard Trent Meacham) on a three-point shot, and then we said we wanted one shot in that situation with the shot-clock off because the worst is you go in 10 points down. But we take an early shot, and they come down and hit a three and now it's 13.

"They carried that momentum into the half, and I thought the second half we came out and defended well, got it back to eight, and then Obi got a clean look to cut it to five. But we just couldn't get over the hump. That's another valuable lesson for a young team is it's a lot harder playing from behind. I thought our defense was good the first 12 minutes of the game. We just couldn't make any shots at the offensive end. That goes back to we've got to execute better and be more efficient, and get better shots. And we've got to share the ball.

"We've not passed the ball, and shared the ball, the last two games the way we have early and the way we did against LSU on Monday."

Dove accepted the responsibility for not having the team ready to play Wednesday, despite the physical wear and tear of playing three games in three days.

"Any time you play three days in a row it takes a toll on your body but that's no excuse for the way we played these last two games," said Dove. "We need to play with a lot more energy and intensity, and that's my job. That's what being a senior leader on this team is supposed to do - get the team ready to play, and I didn't do that. I take responsibility for that.

"We didn't play at all like we did in practice. In practice we share the ball a lot and try to penetrate and get each other shots. I think we're stagnant on offense. We're not really being aggressive and trying to drive the ball," Dove said when asked about the Cowboys' struggles on offense.

Anderson was one of only two Cowboys to score in double figures, leading the team with 12 points. Harris contributed 10 points and a team-best seven rebounds.

OSU returns home to Stillwater on Friday but has a week to practice before returning to the court for a game against Washington in the inaugural Big 12/Pac 10 Hardwood Series on Dec. 1 at Gallagher-Iba Arena.

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