With Likekele Sick, the Cowboys Miss a Check
The Oklahoma State checklist for becoming a big-time Big 12 and NCAA Tournament basketball contender.
Win your home games even when you stuggle with your offense. Check.
Go on the road for a true road game and face a big deficit but come back for the win. Check.
Go to a preseason tournament at a big-time venue against big name teams and win the trophy. Check.
Get off to an unbeaten start, your best at 7-0 since the 2014-15 season. Check.
Win a game with one of your best players either hurt, sick, or in severe foul trouble. No check.
Actually, Oklahoma State had to try to overcome a pair of those misfortunes in the first half on Wednesday night against NBA Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing and the Georgetown Hoyas inside Gallagher-Iba Arena. Ewing was without his starting point guard James Akinjo and back-up forward Josh LeBlanc were suspended from the team earlier this week.
But on Wednesday morning Cowboys point guard Isaac Likekele showed up to the GIA training room with a fever and not feeling well at all. If I were Mike Boynton that is about all it would take for me to start suffering from nausea. Likekele was out and not even suited up for the Cowboys. It was te first missed game of his OSU career after starting in 39 contests.
I don’t have to tell you about Likekele. He came into the home game with Georgetown averaging 13.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 2.9 steals a game. In Brooklyn against Syracuse he had a game high 26 points because his team needed him to score. In the 78-37 slaughter of Ole Miss he was the only starter in single digits with nine because his team needed him more for defense and passing.
Against the Hoyas they didn’t have him at all and after two quick fouls to start the game that forced the NIT MVP and one of the top shot blockers in college basketball, Yor Anei, to the bench, Boynton had to about as sick as Likekele at that point.
Instead of a fever the Cowboys had a rise in turnovers with nine first half giveaways. Instead of a runny nose the Cowboys had runaway shots as in hitting just 12-of-33 from the field in the first half.
In the end, the biggest part of missing their best perimeter defender the entire game and their rim protector the first half was what Georgetown did without having to deal with Likekele and, in the first half, Anei. They shot 45 percent from the field, 41 percent from three-point range, and without defense at all, they were 100 percent from the free throw line.
Senior guard Mac McClung scored 33 points. He banked in three pointers off the glass, hit runners down the lane, and was perfect from the free throw line. The back-up point guard that is now the starter Terrell Allen scored 15 points and had five assists, most of them to McClung.
“He came out hot and we rode him,” said the Hall of Famer Ewing of McClung. “Terrell Allen was outstanding. We played a team game and I told these guys as soon as we started thinking about we instead of me we would become a team. That started tonight.”
It got a much easier start with Likekele home fighting the flu and Anei fighting fouls. Georgetown center Omer Yurtseven had 19 points. Georgetown won 81-74 and the Cowboys fell from the ranks of the unbeaten, but not the ranks of serious contenders.
Now, Oklahoma State can look to check off another quality that contenders in college basketball need to prove.
Can you come back and win off a disappointing loss. That check can come with Wichita State on Sunday. Hopefully, with Isaac Likekele healthy and good to go. The Cowboys need their point guard. He may be their real MVP.