Cade Cunningham and OSU basketball 'always happy with a win' but learned a lesson vs. Oakland
STILLWATER — Oklahoma State guard Isaac Likekele did nearly everything he could.
He gave Oakland guard Rashad Williams little space in the corner. Likekele had a hand up stopping Williams from initially attempting a 3-pointer. Likekele even slapped the basketball.
Williams somehow still got off his shot as he started to fall.
“Wow,” Likekele said. “I was all over him. He still (got) it up. He made it. That goal was just looking 5-feet wide to him. It was tough.”
On a night the Cowboys survived Oakland’s record-setting performance with an 84-71 victory, the young squad learned a valuable lesson.
Don’t overlook an opponent.
Oakland entered winless in five games, the result of a grueling schedule and little practice time due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their shooting percentages were terrible — 29.7% overall and 22.4% from 3 — despite shooting much better a year ago.
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That didn’t matter Saturday night inside Gallagher-Iba Arena.
Oakland caught fire, making 17 of 37 3-pointers, tied for the most made 3s against OSU.
Williams was the biggest problem, making 10 of 20 3s to set an opponent’s single-game record against OSU, passing the eight former OU star Trae Young made in a 2018 Bedlam matchup.
“He is a hell of a player,” OSU coach Mike Boynton said about Williams. “What I saw was the same thing I saw on the film from last year.
“But the problem was, again, I couldn’t look at his stats from this year and tell our guys, ‘Hey, this guy’s a really good player,’ because what they’re seeing is an 0-5 team where their guys’ percentages don’t look like they can shoot, even though they still shoot a lot.”
Williams entered the game having made just 3 of 18 3-pointers this season. But shooters can get going anytime.
With 11:05 remaining, he hit his seventh trey, tying the game at 56. OSU had tried different defenders on Williams, to no avail.
Williams and Co. found rhythm early, making uncontested 3-pointers early. Oakland even made four straight to open the second half.
But after Williams’ seventh make, Boynton turned to Ole Miss transfer guard Bryce Williams.
Bryce locked down Rashad for 9 minutes.
“He just made up his mind that that kid wasn’t going to get one off, and if he did it was going to be a forced one over his hand,” Boynton said.
The Cowboys (4-0) went on a 19-5 run. Bryce hit a 3-pointer and then superstar Cade Cunningham really started to shine.
He set up two dunks by Kalib Boone on a fastbreak, including a dynamic alley-oop. Later, Cunningham came up with a steal and breakaway windmill dunk. He later had a layup, hit a few free throws and set up another dunk by Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe.
“I definitely knew it was about that time to get aggressive,” said Cunningham, who finished with 18 points, eight assists and four rebounds. “That’s just usually how I play the game. I take what’s given to me.”
Even though Rashad hit three more 3-pointers in the final 2:05, the Cowboys had put the game out of reach.
And they had again shown growth just four games into the season.
Boynton feared the matchup with Oakland. He warned his players that the Grizzlies could shoot. Veteran coach Greg Kampe wouldn’t let them shoot so much if they couldn’t.
But the message was tough to really believe. The numbers said otherwise.
Now, OSU knows the numbers can be deceiving. For a young team, that’s a valuable step.
“We’re always happy with a win, but I don’t think we’re at all satisfied with how we won the game,” Cunningham said. “This is something to build on. We’re still confident for the future and I think it just made everybody more hungry to get to practice tomorrow.”