Week 3 Recap
L 79-70 vs Providence
W 73-55 vs Texas A&M
The Frogs returned to non-conference play this past week and split their two games: a loss at home to a lively Providence team and a rout of Texas A&M in a “neutral site” game just down the road at Dickies Arena. The Friars have two solid players, and they both went nuclear on the Frogs. David Duke dropped 28 points to go along with 7 assists, while Nate Watson had a cool 18 points and 8 boards. In what has become a theme for the Frogs, they were carried by RJ Nembhard (25 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists) and Mike Miles (20 points), with Kevin Samuel (10 points, 3 blocks) being shut down in the first half. The Frogs were without two key members of their backcourt for this game, with PJ Fuller and Francisco Farabello, with both missing out due to injury and COVID protocols respectively. Still, defensive lapses once again doomed the Frogs, as they simply had no answer for the red hot Duke. Coach Dixon tried out a two-big man rotation starting both Samuel and Jaedon LeDee, but it didn’t work out in the end and Kevin Easley ended up eating most of the minutes.
In contrast, the Frogs came out firing against their in-state rivals on Saturday, running them out of Fort Worth with ease. Nembhard’s big day (16 points, 9 assists) was part of what won him Big 12 Player of the Week, while Miles (15 points, 5 assists) remained a positive and Fuller (13 points) made a triumphant return. It was clear after 10 minutes who the better team was, and the Frogs let their hoop fans rest easy for once as the second half unfolded. Moving forward, it seems pretty clear that the question each week for the Frogs is which team will show up? Nembhard and Miles seem to be the team’s primary offensive weapons, and when they cut down on turnovers it’s all good. Whether a consistent tertiary option (Samuel? Easley? Fuller when healthy?) emerges may be the difference between a decent and a very good season. One major concern that remains in the propensity for one player on the other team to have a massive day, and this concern compounds considering the Frogs’ next opponent.
Week 4 Preview
12/16 @Oklahoma State (6-0), 6:00 PM Central on ESPN
12/22 North Dakota State (2-5), 8:00 PM Central on ESPNU
The Frogs next opponent is another conference foe, the Oklahoma State Cowboys. The Pokes are led by freshman phenom Cade Cunningham, the odds on favorite to be the first overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. Cunningham has taken over primary ball handling duties, and just a quick watch will make evident why NBA scouts are enamored with the dude. He’s shot a cool 48% from three so far this season, with a smooth athleticism that lets him get to the rim with easy. He’s big, 6’8 220 pounds, yet agile enough to stay with guards as well as bigs. He is a willing distributor, but the one area of weakness so far? Turnovers, where he has had at least 2 every game and is averaging over 3 per game (22.0 turnover rate). The Frogs will have their hands full with Cunningham on the road, and how the young superstar plays will likely decide the game. Surrounding Cunningham are familiar faces Isaac Likekele, who is the team’s second leading scorer and seems to be thriving off ball, and Kalib Boone, who has taken over in the middle following Yor Anei’s transfer to SMU. Flanking them are freshmen Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe and Rondel Walker, as well as grad transfers Bryce Williams and Ferron Flavors. The Pokes are a talented bunch who will go as Cunningham goes, so the Frogs will need to pull out all the stops to leave Stillwater with a win.
NDSU doesn’t sport a great record this year, but the Bison gave Kansas a scare at Allen Fieldhouse, so the Frogs can’t afford to overlook their opponent. NDSU uses a short lineup with an experienced trio leading the way. Senior Rocky Kreuser will be a solid matchup inside for Kevin Samuel, as he leads the team in scoring and blocks while flashing some passing creativity. He can also step out and shoot the three, which will provide another challenge for the more traditional Samuel. Junior Tyree Eady adds to the perimeter threat, shooting 47% from distance so far this season. Eady was the leading scorer for the Bison against KU, and so the Frogs should be sure to keep a close watch on him. Junior Sam Griesel has been the primary point guard for the team, and he has grown into his role over the past few games. Griesel will be riding three straight games in double figures before heading to Fort Worth. Sophomores Maleeck Harden-Hayes and Jarius Cook round out the projected starting five, with Harden-Hayes shooting well as of late. While NDSU individually has some good offensive players, their team output this year has been inconsistent at best, and their 44.3% eFG ranks 264th in the nation. The big thing with the Bison is that they’ve largely held their own against tough competition: the aforementioned Kansas game, a close loss to South Dakota State, and only losing by 11 on the road against a strong Creighton team. This is a game the Frogs have to win, but there is reason to believe it could be a close one.
The most sensible prediction is that the Frogs will split these games with a loss in Stillwater and a win at home back in non-conference play. It’s still way too early in the season to know who this team is though. Was the Oklahoma loss due to rust? How much of a difference will Farabello’s return be? Who is the Cunningham stopper? There are still several games to go before the heart of conference play, and these two games will hopefully provide Coach Dixon and co. some much needed clarity on these questions.