In a game that featured runs by both sides throughout, Oklahoma State ran away with the game against Syracuse picking up an 86-72 win in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off in Brooklyn, NY. With the win, Oklahoma State moved to 6-0 on the season for the first time since the 2014-15 season.
“Just told our team, ‘We’ve played some good teams; we’ve got to this point because we prepare to play against different styles,” said head coach Mike Boynton on the Cowboy Radio Network. “The other teams that we play are all going to have good seasons, but that was a big-boy, NCAA Tournament type of game on a neutral court, and I’m really, really proud of our team for the way they competed for 40 minutes.”
The entire first half of the game was one big run by both sides. The game started off with an 11-0 run that saw two points for Yor Anei and Cameron McGriff, three points for Thomas Dziagwa and four points for Isaac Likekele. That’s when things shifted back the other way. Syracuse followed that up with a 21-3 run of their own to go up 23-14.
But the Pokes got hot again as they finished the first half on a 29-10 run to go into halftime with a 43-31 lead. What helped with the Pokes’ hot streak was three 3-point buckets by freshman Chris Harris Jr. Harris finished the game with nine points, all three coming in those three buckets.
“Our guys did a great job of not allowing it to snowball and go from maybe a 6-0 run, to maybe a 12-2 run or 14-3 run,” said coach Boynton on the Cowboy Radio Network. “It kind of stemmed the tide; got back to stopping guys and getting deflections and steals and getting into transitions, and that really got us going.”
It was sophomore point guard Isaac Likekele that led the way for the Cowboys tonight against Syracuse. He set a career-high in points with 26 on 8-of-11 shooting from the floor, 1-of-1 from beyond the 3-point line, as well as going 9-of-10 from the free throw line. He also hauled in five rebounds, dished eight assists and five steals.
“Isaac [Likekele] gave us everything; I don’t even know what the stats say, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t fill it up across the board,” coach Boynton said on the Cowboy Radio Network. “Obviously, he stepped up an made all his free throws and he made a lot of keys plays in terms of attacking [Syracuse] and keeping them off balance.”
Likekele was one of three Cowboys that posted double-digits in points along with Thomas Dziagwa, who posted 16 points, and Yor Anei who posted 19 points.
As a team, the Cowboys were great from the field as they shot just over 49 percent, and 82 percent from the free throw line. They also out-rebounded the longer Syracuse team 39-31, and held the Orange to just 33 percent shooting from the field.
With the win, Oklahoma State advances to face Ole Miss in the championship game this coming Friday, Nov. 29. Ole Miss is fresh off coming back from 21-points down in the second half against Penn State to win 74-72. Friday’s tip-off is scheduled for an 8:30 p.m. CT start on ESPN2.