Tramel: Oklahoma State sweeps Bedlam basketball, with best player Cade Cunningham & then the better team
Over 56 hours in recent days, our state was blessed with 85 minutes of Bedlam basketball. Two glorious games that showed that college hoops still can be entertaining.
Lots of points (338). Lots of action. Sixteen ties; 24 lead changes. OSU, which sports an offense that isn’t exactly world-class, shot 50.4% in the two-game Bedlam Series, and remember, the OU revival this season was built on defense. The Sooners countered with 40.4% 3-point shooting.
This was high-level hoops that makes you think both of these teams can acquit themselves well when the opponents turn a little less familiar.
Tough combination to beat.
“We’ve got a lot of pieces,” State coach Mike Boynton said. “I remember my first year here. Winning a game 94-90 like we did on Saturday, or finding a way to win this game 79-75, wasn’t really an option. Just didn’t have enough playmaking guys to score like that.”
So sure, the Cowboys have Cade Cunningham, maybe college basketball’s best player, and his 40 points Saturday was a game for the ages. But Monday night, Cunningham didn’t even make a basket until 7:20 remained in the game. Cunningham being Cunningham, he then scored in a flurry, with three field goals in a span of less than three minutes.
But OSU’s point production was a sign that the Cowboys are something other than just Cade Aides: Kalib Boone 17 points, Cunningham 15, Bryce Williams 14, Avery Anderson 11, Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe 9, Keylan Boone 7, Rondel Walker 6.
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All that without Isaac Likekele, OSU’s second-best player, though not necessarily its second-best scorer. Likekele missed both Bedlam games nursing a hand injury, and still the Cowboys swept.
OSU’s depth showed on defense too. The Cowboys assigned Anderson to OU point guard Austin Reaves on Saturday, though others helped. Monday, Boynton switched over to Williams as the primary defender on Reaves, though others helped. Had Likekele been available, no telling where he would have been stationed.
“The thing about Ice is, he can guard Reaves and he can guard Manek,” Boynton said, referring to Brady Manek, OU’s center who broke out of a malaise with 20 points Monday night. Likekele’s “length could bother either one of them. I’m proud of this team. We won two really hard games without our established leader.”
The two-games-in-three-nights series was fun, full of immediate coaching adjustments. Besides Boynton switching the Reaves defenders, OSU also mixed in zone defense more often and played some fun lineups.
With the game on the line, OSU up 75-72 with 37.7 seconds coming out of a timeout, Boynton took out both of his big men, Kalib Boone and Moncrieffe, to better guard the 3-point line. That left Cunningham on Manek, and it almost backfired. Cunningham got caught in a screen by the diminutive Umoja Gibson, and Manek found an open corner 3. It bounced off, and it was all over but the shoutin’, except for four Cunningham foul shots.
OU coach Lon Kruger adjusted by starting Elijah Harkless. Jalen Hill had started Saturday, apparently in hopes his bigger size would hound Cunningham. Didn’t last, of course; Harkless played 31 minutes to Hill’s 14, and that disparity grew bigger Monday.
In fact, the Bedlam Series calls into question OU’s depth. The Sooners’ minutes played Monday: Gibson 39 minutes, Manek 38, De’Vion Harmon 36, Reaves 35 and Harkless 33. No one else reached double digits. OU’s three players off the bench combined for 19 minutes, more turnovers than points (3-2), one steal and no baskets, no rebounds, no assists and no blocked shots.
Even without Likekele, OSU’s bench shined. Keylan Boone and Moncrieffe combined for 42 minutes, 16 points, 6-of-8 shooting, eight rebounds and three assists.
“Every player plays a part,” Kalib Boone said. “I know Cade’s the main man, but he’s got a lot of soldiers behind him.”
As March arrives, OSU is getting deeper. OU is getting shallower. Keep an eye on that.
“It’s tough losing a rivalry game like that,” Reaves said, who was his usual productive self, with 19 points (despite 5-of-14 shooting), seven rebounds and four assists. “But that’s what we go to school here for. The last three games (including a loss last week at Kansas State) were really close down to the wire. Ball bounces one way or the other, you win those games.”
The ball bounced OSU’s way Saturday because Cunningham took over, made 12 of 21 shots, and the Sooners had no answer for an NBA-caliber player. The ball bounced OSU’s way Monday because the Cowboys had more good players.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.