Oklahoma State basketball: 3 takeaways from Cowboys' win over Arkansas
STILLWATER — Oklahoma State superstar Cade Cunningham dribbled to his left with time ticking down.
A quick step back and a vicious jump shot later, the Cowboys were on their way to a big victory.
Cunningham made a step-back jumper with 21.3 seconds remaining in his first game in 18 days to seal OSU’s 81-77 victory over Arkansas on Saturday inside Gallagher-Iba Arena as part of the annual Big 12/SEC Challenge.
It was a star-studded finish for Cunningham on a special day for the Cowboys.
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OSU honored honored Eddie Sutton and the 10 fallen members of the program from a Colorado plane crash 20 years ago.
For Sutton, they unveiled “Naismith Hall of Fame” underneath his signature on the court. For the fallen, they held a moment of silence and awarded annual scholarships.
And then they won a thrilling back-and-forth game, improving to 11-4 before returning to Big 12 play Wednesday at TCU.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
Welcome back, Cade
With 16:38 remaining in the opening half, Cade Cunningham entered his first basketball game in 18 days.
Eventually, it looked like he never missed a game.
He was certainly clutch.
Cunningham came alive down the stretch once again, not only making the decisive shot. He also hit two free shots to ice the game with 3.8 seconds remaining. He also intercepted Arkansas’ inbound pass on the final play.
Cunningham finished with 21 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four turnovers in 31 minutes off the bench.
At times in the opening half, he looked sluggish, the effects of missing so much time due to COVID-19 protocols.
But then he had brilliant moments, setting up teammates, grabbing key rebounds, forcing turnovers with suffocating defense and picking his spots offensively.
He even delivered a fun highlight to end the opening half.
Arkansas coach Eric Musselman subbed in 7-foot-3 Connor Vanover to guard Cunningham, who was inbounding the ball with 0.6 seconds from near half court.
Cunningham stepped back for the pass, as allowed, and fired a perfect lob pass to Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe anyway for a layup as time expired.
Kalib Boone remains hot
OSU sophomore Kalib Boone had not missed a shot since last Saturday.
He made each of them against Iowa State on Monday. He was perfect in the first half Saturday. It took a block from Vanover to stop Boone.
Boone didn’t let that really slow him down, though.
The 6-foot-10 Tulsa Memorial product had his first-career double-double, scoring 16 points and grabbing 12 rebounds.
He finished the day 8 of 11 shooting.
Boone also combined with fellow freshman forward Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe to again dominate inside. Moncrieffe had 11 points, six rebounds and two assists.
Turnovers, fouls plague Cowboys
Less than a week after committing 24 turnovers at Iowa State, OSU was again sloppy with the basketball.
The Cowboys committed 19 turnovers, often unforced. Moncrieffe and Isaac Likekele each had five turnovers.
It was a problem from the beginning of the game. OSU committed 15 in the opening half.
Then it took 11 seconds to commit one in the second half, getting a steal but Likekele threw a pass between two teammates for a turnover.
The bright side is that the Cowboys only committed four in the second half.
They also cleaned up their foul situation.
Likekele did foul out with 13.8 seconds remaining. But he played most of the second half in foul trouble. Avery Anderson III picked up his third with 3.5 seconds left in the opening half.
With those two limited, it hindered the Cowboys’ quick attack at times.