Oklahoma State Cowboys

OSU basketball: Cowboys fend off Texas rally, pick up first conference win

OSU basketball: Cowboys fend off Texas rally, pick up first conference win

Isaac Likekele drives to the basket against Texas. (Photo credit: OSU Athletics)

STILLWATER – Isaac Likekele released his free throw as the fans surrounding him held their breath.

As his wrist flexed and the ball sailed toward the hoop, all eyes traced it as it fell through the bottom of the net. The shot gave the Oklahoma State basketball team a three-point cushion. Texas had 10 seconds to try a game-tying 3-point shot, but Courtney Ramey’s attempt hit the let side of the rim, sending Gallagher-Iba Arena into a frenzy.

The Cowboys knocked off Texas 61-58 in front of 6,486 fans on Tuesday night. A dazzling first half didn’t lead to similar results in the second, as OSU had to rely on its defense.

The Cowboys (7-8 overall, 1-2 Big 12) converted only two baskets in the final 12:42 of regulation, as Texas narrowed a 17-point halftime deficit to one with 11.9 seconds remaining. Likekele received the inbounds pass and was fouled, and his free throws helped OSU knock off its first conference foe.

“I knew he was going to make (the free throws),” forward Cameron McGriff said. “That’s a pretty confident kid, especially as a freshman. He was meant for that stage, and he executed it well.”

Likekele had to be removed from the game after hurting his left leg midway through the second half before returning to score the final four points.

Lindy Waters, a junior captain, tallied 19 points while making all five of his 3-point shots. He made one shot in the second half, a 3-pointer from the right wing, to get OSU to 56 points. Likekele made a layup with 1:09 left to give OSU a five-point advantage, but Texas (10-5, 2-1) fought its way back at the free-throw line.

Waters’ 3 in the second period was the 100th of his career. He also set a career high in scoring and for 3-pointers made.

“The basket was huge,” Waters said. “I could just throw it up there and it would drop in.”

Calloo finding stride

Maurice Calloo is figuring it out.

The OSU freshman forward has played his best basketball in conference play, and his best game came against Texas. Calloo didn’t stuff the stat sheet, scoring only two points, but his defense was impeccable. His rotations were strong and he was communicating soundly throughout the night.

His biggest possession came in the second half. He grabbed an offensive board, and about 20 seconds later dished to McGriff for a slam. He played 18 minutes, but as conference play has continued, Calloo is finding his niche.

“I thought Mo Calloo was sensational,” OSU coach Mike Boynton said. “The numbers don’t show, but he’s got to understand that effort, that energy, rebounding and defensively are things that will allow him to be an integral part of our team moving forward.”

Cowboys building on aggressive defense

It seemed as if every time a Texas shooter released a shot from deep, it missed.

The Longhorns shot 2-of-22 from 3-point range. Although the Cowboys have struggled defending teams shooting 3s earlier this season, it didn’t translate against the Longhorns.

“They play extremely hard,” Texas coach Shaka Smart said. “They help each other. They’re committed to their plan.”

During the first three conference games, opponents are shooting 38 percent against the Cowboys defense and only 31.6 percent from 3-point range. Texas scored 58 points, which is the second-lowest point total it has tallied this season. It was also the Cowboys second time holding an opponent to 58 points, as it did against Charlotte in the opener.

Boynton was pleased with how his team has performed to begin Big 12 play. He said they must maintain their effort as the schedule continues.

“Defense is about, first and foremost, unbelievable effort and care,” Boynton said. “We’ve got a high care factor within our group right now. We know who we are by knowing who we’re not. We’re not going to beat somebody 98-95, and that’s OK. It’s OK to beat someone 61-58, it counts the same.”

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