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Oklahoma State basketball: Three takeaways from Cowboys' 70-54 win at Kansas State

Oklahoma State needed a bounce-back win and fast.

The Cowboys got that Saturday evening with a 70-54 win at Kansas State, erasing the bad taste of the 19-point collapse against West Virginia on Monday.

OSU is now 2-3 in Big 12 play heading into Tuesday’s home matchup with powerhouse Kansas.

Here are three takeaways from the win over Kansas State.

Cowboys offense closes strong

OSU leader Isaac Likekele said the Cowboys got lackadaisical in Monday’s collapse. This time, OSU focused on winning each 4-minute stretch.

The Cowboys did that and then some to close out the game.

They made their final 13 shots over the final 13:03, gradually pulling away. Likekele hit two of those shots, finishing the night with 15 points and nine rebounds.

Sophomore forward Kalib Boone hit five shots, Avery Anderson III added three, Rondel Walker hit two and Cade Cunningham added a 3-pointer.

“We just remained focused,” Likekele said. “After every 4-minute media (timeout) it was 0-0. We just gotta focus every game taking 4 minutes at a time.”

The Cowboys shot 75% overall in the second half, adapting to short-handed Kansas State’s slow tempo and zone defense.

Four players scored in double figures, including 15 from freshman Rondel Walker off the bench. He was instrumental in a night Cunningham struggled.

The superstar freshman was held to just five points — a career low — while shooting just 1 of 3. He never forced bad shots, though. Instead, he made his teammates better, dishing out five assists. He also had six rebounds.

“There’s a really good coach on the other sideline,” OSU coach Mike Boynton said. “If we think that team’s are just going to let him get 25 every night, that’s unrealistic. The key is, can he continue to do other things that help us have success?

“He didn’t get frustrated when he wasn’t scoring. Sure, he would rather have 18 or 20 today, but I know that he would much rather have a win than to have 25 points and a loss like he did Monday.”

Kalib Boone finds way?

Boone was very candid on Thursday about his struggles this season. He wasn’t right mentally. He wasn’t practicing or playing well.

Perhaps this is the game that gets him going again.

He returned to the bench with freshman Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe returning to the starting lineup. But Boone had perhaps his best game of the season.

In 22 minutes, he scored 14 points, grabbed two rebounds and had three assists. It was the most he’d played since the win over Oakland in early December.

“I’m happy that I at least gave my team the big man they needed for the longest,” Boone said. “But I’m not satisfied because we’ve played eight games and honestly this is one of the only games I’ve only had a huge impact in.

“I still gotta put in work.”

More importantly, Boone looked calm. The game appeared to be at a normal pace and he was in control. He only committed one personal foul, a huge boost for an aggressive defender who has fouled out three times this season.

The 6-foot-9 sophomore noticed early in the game he was set up for a big night when he had two quick baskets inside the paint off the bench.

“When I got the layup and hook shot I wanted, I knew this was going to be my day,” Boone said.

Boone’s re-emergence is crucial as the Cowboys prepare to host Kansas, which has had two straight dominant games from 6-foot-10 David McCormack.

But Boone’s challenge is repeating the success.

“He responded like a champion,” Boynton said. “I love all these kids. There’s very few that I spent more time with throughout the recruiting process since I’ve been in our program than Kalib and Keylan. I know those guys in and out. I treat them like my own children.

“But he wasn’t performing at the level that our team needed to meet the expectations we have for ourselves. We had an honest conversation. He had a conversation with the man in the mirror. And he did something about it. So, I’m proud of his response.

“The whole key now is being consistent. Can he build off today and continue to give that added element to our team both offensively and defensively that we definitely need.”

Both teams short handed

Kansas State was down to the minimum number of players allowed to play a Big 12 game — six scholarship players and two walk-ons — due to COVID-19 protocols.

Both Nijel Pack and Seryee Lewis were ruled out due to COVID. The Wildcats were already without Montaviuous Murphy, Lawton Eisenhower product Antonio Gordon, Kaosi Ezeagu and Luke Kasubke.

The Wildcats hung tough most of the game, eventually being overwhelmed.

But coach Bruce Weber would have preferred not to play Saturday.

“I thought for our circumstances, I would’ve not played it,” Weber said. “I would’ve been all right with it. But then again you’ve got to do what the league says, you’ve got to do what the rules say and hopefully that’s why I’ve been able to stay in the business.

“Do things right, do what your boss says, do what the league says. That’s all you can do. My dad raised me that way, my mom, maybe sometimes I’m too much of a company man. I probably should’ve fought a little bit more, but hopefully it will help us in the long run.”

OSU made sure to remain focused.

“It just reminded me of my freshman year when we came up here and we had only five or six guys, Likekele said. “They beat us by 38, so they didn’t have no mercy on us.

“There’s no point in coming out here and feeling sorry for them. It’s all about basketball. Just gotta play with what you got.”

The Cowboys were also short-handed.

Ferron Flavors Jr. (finger) and Chris Harris Jr. (knee) missed the game as expected. Freshman Donovan Williams suffered a leg injury in practice late this week and did not dress.

Ole Miss transfer Bryce Williams also missed the second half due to a headache.

“I think he’s going to be OK,” Boynton said. “He just didn’t feel comfortable. He was available. It was a cautious deal. I think he’ll be fine once we get back. We’ll see in practice in the morning.”

Related Photos
<strong>OSU guard Isaac Likekele goes up for a rebound during the Cowboys' 70-54 win at Kansas State on Saturday. [SCOTT WEAVER/KANSAS STATE ATHLETICS]</strong>

OSU guard Isaac Likekele goes up for a rebound during the Cowboys' 70-54 win at Kansas State on Saturday. [SCOTT WEAVER/KANSAS STATE ATHLETICS]

<figure><img src="//" alt="Photo - OSU guard Isaac Likekele goes up for a rebound during the Cowboys' 70-54 win at Kansas State on Saturday. [SCOTT WEAVER/KANSAS STATE ATHLETICS] " title=" OSU guard Isaac Likekele goes up for a rebound during the Cowboys' 70-54 win at Kansas State on Saturday. [SCOTT WEAVER/KANSAS STATE ATHLETICS] "><figcaption> OSU guard Isaac Likekele goes up for a rebound during the Cowboys' 70-54 win at Kansas State on Saturday. [SCOTT WEAVER/KANSAS STATE ATHLETICS] </figcaption></figure>
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 ›