Oklahoma State was tested Saturday night at Gallagher-Iba Arena, but a second half run kept the Cowboys undefeated.
OSU was challenged for more than three-quarters of the game by a winless Oakland squad that shot went from behind the arc. OSU overcame the hot-shooting Grizzlies and won 84-71.
OSU led 59-58 after Oakland used an 8-3 run to trim the lead to a single point just after the midway point of the second half. The Cowboys took over the game during the next seven minutes, using a 20-3 spurt to take a 79-61 lead with 2:11 left following a pair of free throws from junior Isaac Likekele.
The Cowboys’ defense led to their offense to start the run. Senior Ferron Flavors and freshman Cade Cunningham recorded steals on back-to-back possessions that resulted in a layup and windmill dunk, respectively. That ignited the small home crowd and the Cowboys’ rally.
“I was on the right side, so I didn’t really know what I was going to do early on,” Cunningham said of the dunk. “I kind of chose windmill last second. It just kind of happened.”
Following an Oakland layup, the Cowboys (4-0) rattled off 10-straight points. Six of those came from Cunningham, who led the Cowboys with 18 points and eight assists.
“Credit to Oakland,” Cunningham said. “They came in and weren’t scared of the setting. They came in and shot their shots with confidence and they played a great game. I think the biggest thing is we have to learn from that, though. We’re always happy with a win, but I don’t think we’re all satisfied with how we won the game. This is just something to build on.”
Oakland (0-6) didn’t go quietly into the night. The Grizzlies quickly scored 10-straight points – all by junior Rashad Williams – on a trio of 3-pointers and a free throw.
Williams ended the game with 32 points to lead all scorers. He sank 10 of 20 from behind the arc to set a new GIA record for most by a single player against OSU, breaking the previous record of eight by Oklahoma’s Trae Young in 2018.
“He gave me one 3-pointer in the corner where I was all over him,” Likekele said. “I slapped the ball, I had a hand up and everything, and he still made it. That goal was looking five feet wide to him, and he was making them.”
Williams entered the game making 3 of 18 from 3-point range in four games on the season. As a team, Oakland came in shooting 22.4%, but shot 45.9% (17 of 37) from long range.
The 17 made 3-pointers by Oakland tied a record for the most by an OSU opponent. Missouri (2010) and Colorado (2005) both accomplished the same feat.
“I was really concerned about this game because of their record, to be honest,” OSU coach Mike Boynton said. “I know how hard that is for young guys to understand – how a team can be good if they don’t win, but I watched the tape. That coach has been coaching there almost as long as I’ve been alive. He’s not guessing out here. He knows what he’s doing. He’s got an experienced group of guys and they’re just trying to find their rhythm. I knew they’d be a tough team to play against. I couldn’t speak to the things I knew about them to my team. I knew they were going to shoot a lot of 3s.”
Although Williams lit up the Cowboys, there was a 9:01 stretch in the second half where he didn’t make one. That’s when OSU made its run to pull away.
One big reason for that was the defense by senior Bryce Williams. He focused on making things difficult for Oakland’s hot hand, and it worked long enough to allow the Cowboys to separate themselves during the waning minutes.
“To let one guy make 10 3s is totally unacceptable,” Boynton said. “We’ve got to be better than that. I have to credit Bryce Williams – he had about four possessions there in the second half where he just made up his mind that the kid wasn’t going to get one off, and he if he did, it was going to be a forced one over his hand. He really helped us extend the lead there middle of the second half, and he was the difference in the game for us defensively.”
Five Cowboys scored in double figures, setting a season high. Likekele scored 16 points on 7 of 8 shooting to go along with seven rebounds and three assists.
Sophomore Kalib Boone dropped in 13 points on 5 of 5 shooting in addition to seven boards. Flavors and Williams added 12 and 10 points, respectively.
OSU will be back at home Tuesday night to face Oral Roberts. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.