INDIANAPOLIS – Oklahoma State fell victim to one of the Cinderella stories early Monday morning as its season came to a close after midnight in historic Hinkle Fieldhouse.
The Cowboys battled a hot-shooting Oregon State team that came out firing in the first half and never relinquished its lead despite a furious rally from the Cowboys.
Oregon State won 80-70, knocking off the higher-seeded Cowboys and ending their season in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
“Obviously, really disappointed that we didn’t win,” OSU coach Mike Boynton said. “That was the goal – to continue on – but I’m super proud of my kids, of our staff and of what we did. This year was certainly a challenge in many ways, but we overcame a lot and did many things that no one expected we could do.”
The Beavers trailed 9-4 early in the contest before going on a 20-4 run in less than six minutes. Their lead continued to build as the Oklahoma State offense sputtered, extending all the way to 18 points with 3 minutes and 3 seconds left in the half.
A big reason for that lead was former Cowboy Maurice Calloo, who scored 13 points in the half. Calloo was one of three players dismissed from the team in January 2019 following an incident with the law.
“We played on our heels a lot, and that’s not who are,” Boynton said. “It’s not how we’ve had success. The most shocking part to me is that we were kind of slow to the ball on rebounding. We didn’t really get out in transition. I don’t think we had any transition points. We played reactionary basketball, and in this event, you’ve got to go get it. It’s win or go home, and the feeling you have when it’s over is a pretty tough one to deal with.”
Oregon State led for 33 minutes of the game, despite the Cowboys bringing flurries of defensive pressure in the second half. It caused numerous turnovers by Oregon State, and the lead was even cut to two points with 11:21 remaining in the game.
Unfortunately for the Cowboys, they made only four field goals during the remainder of the game. Three of those were 3-pointers that trimmed the Oregon State lead to three with 3:39 left in the contest.
However, that’s as close as it would get as the Cowboys went cold from the field, only scoring three free throws in the final minutes.
“We showed the type of fight I want this program to always have,” Boynton said. “I was proud of the way we tried to give ourselves a chance. Every time we made it close, though, Oregon State had an answer. … I was really proud of our guys for not hanging their heads and kind of running away from the moment. They faced it. We just came up short.”
The final points came from star freshman Cade Cunningham, who scored 24 points in what is believed to be his final game as a Cowboy.
Oklahoma State shot just 27.7 percent (18 of 65) from the field, including 8 of 29 from 3-point range, The Cowboys also missed 12 of their 38 free throws.
The foul shots were a big disparity in the game. Oregon State made 32 of 35 from the charity stripe after making all 14 from the foul line in the first half.
Sophomores Avery Anderson and Keylan Boone each scored in double figures. Anderson racked up 16 points on 3 of 12 shooting, but 10 of 13 from the stripe. Boone scored 13 points on 3 of 11 shooting, including 3 of 8 from long range.
“Tonight, we weren’t in sync as much as I would have liked,” Boynton said. “Then that caused Avery and Cade to have to try to make more individual plays, which they’re capable of, but it wasn’t a great recipe for today’s game.”
The No. 12 seed Oregon State advances to face No. 9 seed Loyola Chicago, which upset top-seeded Illinois in the first game of the tournament Sunday, in the Sweet 16 next weekend.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys will graduate Ferron Flavors and Bryce Williams, in addition to likely losing Cunningham to the NBA Draft. The rest of the roster is slated to return next year for the Cowboys.