2. OSU can lean on its defense to win big games.
Although many predicted an up-and-down, frenetically paced shootout game between these two teams, the Cowboys managed to hold N.C. State to below 70 points for the first time this season in the 74-68 win.
OSU struggled to connect early and often during this game and finished only making two of 13 attempted three-pointers. They clawed back in the first half and maintained a late late, though, by using their length on defense to bother N.C. State, forcing 17 turnovers and holding the Wolfpack to 30.4% shooting from the floor.
Three different Cowboys players had at least two steals, and Kalib Boone had five blocks while coming off the bench, showing that the defensive intensity was there for OSU.
When shooting poorly from outside, a great team has to be able to rely on its defense the way that Boynton’s Cowboy squad did against the Wolfpack.
1. The Cowboys have experienced, talented depth.
The OSU bench was the star of the show from Wednesday night, without a doubt. By scoring 56 of the team’s 74 points, several Cowboys reserve players showed their mettle and picked up the slack for a team that struggled out of the gate against N.C. State.
With early foul trouble for Moussa Cisse and Matthew Alexander-Moncrieffe, some other names stepped up for Boynton and the Cowboys: Kalib Boone led the way with 20 points, four rebounds, and five blocks, Rondel Walker scored 16 points, and Tyreek Smith had 10 points — all season-high marks for these players.
For a player like Smith, who’s a 6-foot-7 ‘energy’ forward who just transferred from Texas Tech, it’s a good sign that he has a place on the OSU roster. He shot 5-for-7 from the field and added five rebounds in just 14 minutes of action against N.C. State.
Against the high-caliber teams on every date of the Big 12 schedule, OSU will need its bench players to step up on both ends of the floor like they did on Wednesday night.