Oklahoma State Cowboys

OSU basketball: Strong defensive performance helps Cowboys defeat Islanders, move to .500

OSU basketball: Strong defensive performance helps Cowboys defeat Islanders, move to .500

Isaac Likekele dunks a basketball after a steal near the end of the first half. (Courtesy: OSU Athletics)

STILLWATER – Isaac Likekele telegraphed the pass like a defensive back eying a quarterback.

He planted his sneakers on Eddie Sutton Court and shot into the passing lane, nabbing Emmanuel Toney’s pass on his way up the left side of the floor. Toney attempted to hustle back in front of Likekele, but he ended up on the wrong end of the Oklahoma State freshman’s highlight dunk instead.

Likekele’s tenacious defense helped the Cowboy basketball team notch a 69-59 win against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Saturday. He tallied two steals and two blocks, helping the Cowboys hold the Islanders to a 33.9 percent shooting clip.

OSU coach Mike Boynton credited Likekele’s preparation off the court, saying he has shown strides to becoming a better player on the defensive end.

“He’s learning,” Boynton said. “It’s a totally different ball game than high school. The level of preparedness that you need at this level is night and day, and now, 12 games into his college career, and he’s starting to understand how to prepare himself to play, how to really take a scouting report and study the strengths and weaknesses of his opponent, and I think over the course of his career, he’s gonna emerge as one of the best defenders in our program.”

Bench shows growth with up-and-down performance from captains

After three second-half minutes, Boynton deployed a new five players on the floor like a line change in hockey.

The starters, Likekele, captains Thomas Dziagwa, Lindy Waters, Cameron McGriff and freshman Yor Anei, were off to a lethargic start. Boynton took the five out and inserted Michael Weathers, Curtis Jones, Luke Major, Duncan Demuth and Maurice Calloo.

Major, a freshman walk-on, scored quickly on a driving layup. The next possession, Curtis Jones hammered a dunk, bringing the antsy fans to their feet while TAMUCC was forced to call a timeout.

OSU (6-6 overall) struggled throughout much of the first half, though it led 35-28 at the buzzer. Part of it was the captains’ initial struggles to score: Waters and Dziagwa each made one 3-pointer while McGriff chipped in nine points. Waters hit only one basket in the second half, though Dziagwa added three triples and McGriff ended as OSU’s leading scorer with 15 points.

OSU’s bench unit tallied 22 points, but there wasn’t a more important stretch than the one early in the second half. McGriff said the bench has come a long way this season.

“To have that depth throughout the bench is huge throughout the year,” McGriff said. “It’s a long season, so we’re gonna need everybody ’cause people might wear down throughout time.”

Cunningham, Kentrevious Jones miss second straight game for violation of team rules

Graduate transfer guard Mike Cunningham and freshman forward Kentrevious Jones missed their second straight game after violating team rules.

Boynton said they have returned to practice and were being held out from a game standpoint. Both were available to play in Saturday’s game. He said their incidents were separate that happened to occur about the same time.

“I expect them at some point to return to the lineup,” Boynton said.

Major, who last saw meaningful game action against UTSA, played 5:25 against the Islanders (5-8). He tallied the two points and one rebound, though he missed two free throws and two 3s on set plays.

Jones said his progression since walking on this summer has been easy to see.

“He comes to work hard every day,” Jones said. “Throughout practice, since he’s got here, he’s built confidence, and when you’ve got confidence, I think you can go out there and make plays.”

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