Likekele, Cunningham, and Walker Stand Out in Win Over Texas Southern
STILLWATER -- Oklahoma State and their young squad was doing just fine against a more veteran Texas Southern team full of Division I transfers that was coming off a close shave in Pullman, Wash., losing to Washington State by just four points. The young Cowboys, early in the second half, did get a reminder of just what a veteran touch can do for them. Cowboys guard Isaac Likekele had missed much of the first half in foul trouble. The junior started hot and dependable in the second half in helping the Pokes to a 85-65 win over Texas Southern.
As former Cowboys guard Bryndon Manzer said on the broadcast, "Likekele can score just five points and it will be the best five points of the game and he is the best player on the floor."
Freshman star Cade Cunningham had kissed one off the glass to make it 44-32, but then Likekele after feeding Kalib Boone powered into the lane and followed the miss by Boone with a short jumper for a 46-32 advantage, largest of the game.
Then with 16:38 left in the second half and Likekele showed off his passing ability with a bullet to Ferron Flavors Jr. in the corner where he hit a three-pointer for a 49-32 lead.
The next time down, Likekele showed his shooting range on the wing with a three for a 52-34 lead. The Cowboys had command and grew the lead.
The veteran guard to freshman star guard tag team kept working as Cunningham's artistic lay in made it 61-40 for the Pokes biggest lead at the 13:05 mark.
Then a great example of how this team is going to grow and mature and will feature any variety of scorers and top players on any given night. Likekele and Cunningham will be there consistently. For the second straight game Cunningham led the Cowboys with 20 points. He also had four rebounds and four assists. Likekele had eight points with six rebounds and four assists. The third wheel against Texas Southern was another freshman.
Putnam City West product and Oklahoma High School Player of the Year Rondel Walker had 19 points. The leading scorer at halftime with 10 points, while Cunningham and Likekele had their bouts with foul trouble, Walker accepted passes from both guards while sitting open in the right baseline corner as he hit three treys in a row from almost the same spot. The first at the 11:21 mark for a 64-44 lead. The second with 9:28 to go and a 67-48 advantage. The third at the 8:49 point for a 70-49 lead.
The game's exclamation point came with just over a minute to go when Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe caught a long rebound on the perimeter and danced to the rim where he shook the goal standard with a monster dunk.
"If that's not Sportscenter number one play tonight then somebody at ESPN is doing something wrong," Cowboy senior Ferron Flavors Jr. said after the game.
"That was a big poster," added Walker.
The first half was a grinder that also saw the Cowboys top two guards get into foul trouble. Midway through the first half with Isaac Likekele on the bench with two fouls, Cade Cunningham helped the Cowboys seize their biggest lead and it was one they would grow to a game best 11-point advantage at half leading Texas Southern 41-30.
"I was up at the arena Thursday morning (Thanksgiving) for a workout," Boynton said. "I like to get in some cardio. I'm getting to be an old man. I usually get up to the gym at seven (a.m.) and Cade Cunningham was the only player in there. He was adamant that he didn't think he played well and was determined he was going to play better. That kind of shows you what kind of mindset he has."
A baby hook inside by Walker and a lay up by Avery Anderson had the Cowboys holding their biggest lead at 20-14. That is when Cunningham blocked the shot of Justin Hopkins as he drove down the baseline. The Cowboys couldn't convert on the offensive end but they got the ball right back when former Cowboy and now TSU starting guard Michael Weathers air balled a three-point try as the shot clock buzzer went off for the second time in the half. In all, the Cowboys forced three shot clock violations.
Kalib Boone fed Cunningham for a lay in that made it 24-15. A couple of minutes later, Cunningham knocked down a three at the top of the key to make the score 27-17, the first double digit lead in the game for either team. Shortly after that Cunningham tried to drive inside and got called for the offensive foul, his third and the end of the half for him.
That was when the Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe show started as the freshman from Canada took a pass from Likekele and laid it in. The next possession, Likekele missed a three-point try and Moncrieffe slammed home a follow for a 33-26 lead.
The third freshman that was impressive in the first half was Walker as he hit a jumper toward the half, a smooth shot and a 39-30 lead. It was Walker's fourth make on six shots and he had 10 points to lead the Pokes in the first half.
Cunningham had seven points. Flavors Jr. and Anderson had five each in the first half. The Cowboys kicked it into another gear in the second half for an even more impressive victory in game two.
Oklahoma State outshot Texas Southern 45.8 percent to 38.8 percent. The Cowboys shot 41.7 percent from three-point range hitting 10-of-24. Free throws were better with OSU hitting 21-of-27. The turnovers were improved with only nine.
The negatives included allowing 20 offensive rebounds to Texas Southern.
Now it is on to a greater test as the Cowboys head to Milwaukee to face 2-0 Marquette in the Big 12/Big East Challenge. Tip time is 6 p.m. on Dec. 1 with the game on FS1.