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OSU basketball: Cowboys looking to avoid another slow start to Big 12 play

OSU guard Isaac Likekele, right, goes for a layup against TCU guard Mike Mileson Wednesday. [Rob Ferguson/USA TODAY Sports]
OSU guard Isaac Likekele, right, goes for a layup against TCU guard Mike Mileson Wednesday. [Rob Ferguson/USA TODAY Sports]

STILLWATER — Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton believes his team learned a valuable lesson this week.

The Big 12 is unforgiving.

The Cowboys squandered an eight-point lead in the final 2:21 in a 77-76 loss to TCU on Wednesday. Now, they get to deal with a grueling stretch that stretches into early January, starting Sunday afternoon at No. 11-ranked Texas.

No. 14-ranked Texas Tech awaits on Jan. 2 and No. 8-ranked West Virginia looms on Jan. 4.

“Obviously, it’s an easy thing to say, but we’re not thinking about it in that regard,” Boynton said. “What we gotta really do is focus on and try to prepare ourselves for a really, really talented and experienced Texas team that we’re going to have play really well against to have a chance to win.

“If we focus on anything other than that, we’re doing ourselves a disservice and it’s not going to give us a really good chance to have success in there.”

The Cowboys last won a Big 12 opener in 2016. Since, they’ve started 0-6 (2016-17), 0-2 (2017-18), 0-2 (2018-19) and 0-8 (2019-20) in conference play.

But this is a completely different team. The Cowboys have a new young and talented roster that doesn’t lack confidence.

“In my opinion, I think we can beat every team in this league,” OSU guard Bryce Williams said. “I watched the Kansas and Texas Tech game. I feel like we can compete with them.

“I just feel like we’re young and we just need to go through trials and tribulations to be able to get over that hump we need. I think that loss really opened our eyes up as a whole.”

Boynton wants more from Likekele

OSU leader Isaac Likekele is impacting the game in many ways.

He’s grabbing rebounds, dishing out assists and playing strong defense all over the floor. But he’s still fifth in the team in shots attempted with just 45.

“Can’t happen,” Boynton said. “He doesn’t have to be first, but he can’t be fifth. He’s got to get more assertive.”

Boynton believes if Likekele gets more aggressive shooting the basketball, it will relieve some pressure on superstar Cade Cunningham, who leads the team with 98 shot attempts.

But Wichita State and TCU have made life tough on Cunningham, doubling him in the low post and forcing him into tough offensive situations.

“(Likekele has) deferred a little bit too much with respect to Cade and wanting to help us help him do the things he does best,” Boynton said. “But we need him to be much more assertive offensively, which I believe in turn will make it much more difficult for teams to focus as much on Cade.”

Keylan’s first dunk was special

Sophomore Keylan Boone had never dunked in a college basketball game until Wednesday night.

He made it count.

Likekele led a fastbreak with just more than 16 minutes remaining as Boone trailed to his left. With TCU’s Kevin Easley the lone defender, Likekele delivered a perfect behind-the-back bounce pass to Boone, who unleashed a dunk over Easley.

The dunk drew a foul. It ignited the Cowboys. It also made SportsCenter’s top 10 plays.

“Those are opportunities and moments that I will never forget and I will never take for granted,” Boone said. “That’s for sure one I’ll always remember. Of course, that’s going to stay with me forever. I’ll be able to tell other people and show it, especially all the things that come with the dunk.”

Jacob Unruh

Jacob Unruh is a graduate of Northeastern State University. He was born in Cherokee and raised near Vera where he attended Caney Valley High School.During his tenure at NSU, Unruh wrote for The Northeastern (NSU's student newspaper), the... Read more ›