'He's like that': How Oklahoma State's Cade Cunningham left his own mark on Bedlam in OT upset of Sooners
NORMAN — Cade Cunningham subtly put his finger to his lips and told the Oklahoma faithful to quiet down.
OU’s Elijah Harkless had fired up the crowd, chasing down a breakaway dunk by Oklahoma State’s Avery Anderson III and blocking it. But the ball ended up in Cunningham’s hands.
And the hoopla went silent.
Cunningham buried a 3-pointer.
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And though more than 6 minutes remaining in the opening half, that was the sign that Cunningham was set to own his first Bedlam matchup.
Each time Lloyd Noble Center started to get loud with its limited-capacity crowd, there was Cunningham and the Cowboys with an answer.
A step-back 3-pointer over the relentless Harkless. A spin into a pump fake that created another jumper. A one-handed floater in overtime. A block on Austin Reaves’ layup in traffic. A key steal against Jalen Hill.
Name it and Cunningham likely did it Saturday afternoon in the Cowboys’ wild 94-90 overtime upset of No. 7-ranked OU in the opening round of Bedlam.
“He’s a beast,” Anderson said. “He’s like that.”
On a day the national television audience got a good look at the projected No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, Cunningham put on a show.
He scored a career-high 40 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. He dropped 27 points in the final 25 minutes of the game, including 10 in overtime.
The outburst was the second 40-point performance for an OSU player in Bedlam history, joining Juwan Evans’ 42 in 2017. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Cunningham’s 40-point double double was the first against an AP Top 10 opponent since Jan. 3, 2006, when Marquette’s Steve Novak scored 41 and grabbed 16 rebounds against No. 2 Connecticut.
That’s leaving a mark on his likely only Bedlam matchup in Norman.
“He’s 19 years old, by the way,” OSU coach Mike Boynton said, “in case anyone needs a reminder why he’s special.”
OSU is now 4-0 in overtime, with every win against ranked opponents. The Cowboys and Sooners are tied for fourth in the Big 12 standings.
And the rematch is in just 48 hours, this time at 8 p.m. Monday in Stillwater.
“I think we can play better as a team,” Boynton said. “I don’t think we played our best game.”
OSU did commit 20 turnovers and forward Kalib Boone struggled, though he had a huge offensive rebound and two free shots in overtime.
But the day was dominated by Cunningham, even with some challenges.
The Sooners threw Harkless, their best defender, at Cunningham often, creating a highly entertaining 1-on-1 matchup.
Harkless — who is just 6 feet 3, a good 5 inches shorter than Cunningham — entered the game with 11:52 remaining in the opening half and immediately went after Cunningham.
At that point, Cunningham had made his first three shots. But Harkless forced a few turnovers and made Cunningham work harder.
But in the second half, Cunningham seemed to thrive with the challenge.
With less than 10 minutes remaining, Cunningham dribbled, crossed over and stepped back, creating just enough space between himself and Harkless.
A clean 3-pointer swished through the net.
And the next possession, Cunningham again went into attack mode. He dribbled to the free-throw line, spun, pumped fake and got Harkless in the air. Cunningham calmly made a jump shot.
“He’s a really good defender,” Cunningham said. “They really trusted him and a lot of times they kind of let us play 1 on 1. Anytime I can get 1 on 1s and things like that, I’m going to have fun.
“He’s a competitor, I’m a competitor, so we were going at each other for sure.”
Cunningham scored 10 of OSU’s last 13 points in regulation. He even blocked Reaves’ layup with 24.3 seconds remaining.
In overtime, Cunningham scored eight of his 10 points from the free-throw line.
And before leaving the court, he did an interview with ABC. He finished and was met with a hearty cheer from a small OSU crowd.
Cunningham’s first Bedlam matchup was quite memorable.
“I think getting the win was how I wanted to put my print on Bedlam,” Cunningham said. “Having trust in my coaches and my teammates allowed me to get 40, but I think we all played to win. That’s what I’m most happy about.
“Those are the things we’re going to take and try to translate to the next game. Who knows if 40 points will happen again. Who knows, but I know we all play to win.”