Oklahoma State basketball: Cade Cunningham injures ankle in loss at Baylor
Oklahoma State guard Cade Cunningham crossed over and went to his left. But he stepped on the foot of Baylor’s Davion Mitchell.
Cunningham immediately went down.
With 42.8 seconds remaining, the Cowboys’ superstar clutched his left ankle on the court. The outcome was nearly finalized — a No. 3-ranked Baylor 81-70 win over No. 17 OSU — but the real concern Thursday night was with Cunningham.
He was helped off the court and did not return. He did walk off the court after the loss under his own power with a slight limp.
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But his status moving forward is uncertain. He was evaluated Friday and he was diagnosed with a sprained ankle, a source confirmed to The Oklahoman. He will continue to be evaluated and receive treatment Friday night and Saturday morning.
“I have no idea,” OSU coach Mike Boynton said about the seriousness of the injury Thursday night. “It didn’t seem that way, but I’m no doctor.”
The Cowboys were again without leader Isaac Likekele, too. He has played once in the past six games. He’s missed the past three due to a hand injury.
That leaves the Cowboys in a tough spot. They could play at No. 6-ranked West Virginia in Saturday’s regular season finale without both Cunningham and Likekele.
“I handle all injuries the same,” Boynton said. “It doesn’t really matter who the player is. The key is can they play at the level from an effort standpoint that we need. I don’t know if we’ll ever make shots, but when they get there they can go figure out the game.”
But the loss stung in other ways, too.
OSU (17-7, 10-7) had won five straight — including three straight over ranked opponents — and was in position to continue improving its seed in next week’s Big 12 Tournament. Instead, OSU can finish no higher than fourth and no lower than sixth, at least guaranteeing it won’t play on Wednesday for the first time under Boynton.
The Cowboys just ran into a juggernaut Thursday night.
Cunningham caught fire in the second half and made things interesting.
After scoring just four points and making 2 of 8 shots in the opening half, Cunningham scored 20 points, grabbed four rebounds and had two assists in the final 20 minutes. He finished with 24 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
“I thought he was really assertive,” Boynton said of Cunningham’s second half.
Cunningham made the first two OSU baskets of the half, a 3-pointer and a running shot. He ultimately helped OSU get within four points three different times.
With 6:52 remaining, Cunningham hit a 3-pointer and Keylan Boone followed with a putback to cut the deficit to four. But Cunningham lost the ball dribbling on the next possession, setting up a layup by MaCio Teague. Bryce Williams followed with a turnover and Baylor’s Jared Butler hit a 3 in transition.
Suddenly, it was a nine-point game.
With 3:25 remaining, Cunningham hit a 3 to get within four again. Butler followed with a shot. Keylan Boone answered.
The Cowboys couldn’t get closer the rest of the way.
Then their superstar went down.
It happened right in front of Boynton. He said he saw nothing out of the ordinary. But there is concern moving forward knowing the Big 12 Tournament is around the corner. So is the NCAA Tournament.
Cunningham’s teammates believe he’ll bounce back strong, though.
“I know he’s strong,” OSU guard Avery Anderson III said. “He’s gonna be back. He’s a tough guy.”
Here are two more takeaways from the loss:
Offensive rebounds, turnovers hurt Cowboys
Baylor is the best offensive rebounding team in the Big 12.
And in the first half, the Cowboys had no answer. Baylor grabbed 10 offensive rebounds, whether it was a clean rebound in the paint, a tapout to a guard on the perimeter or a long rebound off a missed shot.
“It is frustrating,” OSU forward Kalib Boone said. “But then again that goes back to our principles. Get the ball with two hands, either block and make sure your guy doesn’t get it or you go get it. If you don’t hit the guy, you better get the rebound. If not, stuff like that happens.”
The Bears were able to use the second chances to build an 11-point halftime lead.
The Cowboys cleaned up their rebounding in the second half, out-rebounding Baylor 11-10. But the slow start put OSU in a huge hole.
Then the turnovers piled up.
OSU committed 18, nine in each half. On a night it shot 53.8% overall against one of the best defenses in the country, the turnovers and lack of rebounds added up.
Bench gives a boost
Looking for a positive?
OSU got good minutes from bench players Keylan Boone, Bernard Kouma and Ferron Flavors Jr.
Kouma hit two straight baskets in the first half, providing a boost when OSU’s offense was sluggish.
Keylan had six points and six rebounds in 23 minutes. He scored all of his points in the second half and played 16 minutes.
And Flavors played all 12 of his minutes in the second half after freshman Rondel Walker struggled. Flavors hit a 3-pointer.
“I thought him and Bernie and Keylan really off our bench gave us a lot of really strong productivity,” Boynton said.
Jacob Unruh covers college sports for The Oklahoman. You can send your story ideas to him at email@example.com or on Twitter at @jacobunruh. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.