OSU basketball: Cowboys cap wild 24 hours building future with win over ORU
STILLWATER — With the game closer than expected, a small group of Oklahoma State students started the chant yet again.
“We want Bryce” as Tulsa Booker T. Washington five-star recruit Bryce Thompson sat in the stands a week before signing day.
Even with the Cowboys nursing a five-point lead with 16 seconds remaining, that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of a 26-hour span that saw the bright future of the Cowboys solidify.
OSU held off Oral Roberts University 80-75, coming away with a season-opening win that featured a lot of ups and downs inside Gallagher-Iba Arena. There was a collective sigh of relief with an eye to the future under coach Mike Boynton.
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In a week span, OSU landed two big recruits. Putnam West’s Rondel Walker committed a week ago. On Tuesday, the big fish committed. Montverde (Fla.) Academy’s Cade Cunningham, the nation’s No. 2 overall prospect, announced he was coming to Stillwater.
“It’s been three years for me, guys,” Boynton said. “It’s good to see that it’s turning. We started this thing very cautiously optimistic. There wasn’t a whole lot of high expectations that we could do anything positive here. The fanbase was very skeptical, to say the least, about the prospect of what this program would like under our leadership.
“To see after 2 1/2 going on three years of just putting our heads down working, it certainly feels good to see some of those things you envision come to life.”
The belief is more top prospects are coming. That left Gallagher-Iba Arena abuzz.
Thompson appeared late in the first half Wednesday night, crossing the baseline in front of a near-capacity student section. The first chants broke out along with a standing ovation.
Four OSU students were shirtless with a domino painted on their chests. They held a few of the six signs in the section.
“Bryce Be the next One to fall” read one sign with a two dice drawn on the whiteboard. “Bryce + Cade + Rondel + Keylan + Kalib = NCAA Championship 2020” read another.
OSU’s players attempted to feed off the energy.
The Cowboys (1-0) built a 16-point lead in the second half. But ORU (0-1) fought back as the OSU offense stalled.
With less than 3 minutes remaining, ORU cut the deficit to just one. It came down to OSU’s veterans. They had been in this situation last season, only this time the bench was depleted. They were marathon men.
It made sense they closed it out.
Cam McGriff, Lindy Waters III, Thomas Dziagwa and Isaac Likekele iced the game by making 8 of 10 free throws in the final 58 seconds.
Likekele led all scorers with 18 points, while Waters added 15. Yor Anei fell two blocks shy of a triple double with 13 points, 10 rebounds and eight blocks.
“We was in those situations all last year,” Likekele said. “Last year, we lost a lot of games due to one or two plays. We’re just trying to find different ways to make those changes that give us the different result of winning.”
Now, the season is off to a promising start. So is the future of the program, should the dominoes continue to fall.
“It seems like everybody is more excited than ever this year,” Likekele said. “It feels great to know we’ve got that support. We really want to win this year and bring back the winning culture.”