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Boone, Anderson Finding Footing in Sophomore Seasons

Boone is averaging 17 points a game through OSU’s past three.

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[Pool photo by Liam Oram]

All-everything freshman Cade Cunningham has encapsulated all of the Cowboys’ headlines this season, but a pair of sophomores are starting to get hot.

Kalib Boone and Avery Anderson have turned into excellent role players for Oklahoma State as the Cowboys have won four of their past five games.

After OSU’s loss to West Virginia, where the Pokes blew a 19-point second-half lead, Boone was brutally honest in a media availability, saying he wasn’t focused on the right things and that he was putting too much pressure on himself. Well, he has since been able to work through that mental block.

In OSU’s past three games, Boone has averaged 17.3 points, nine rebounds and only a turnover a game. In OSU’s first 12 games, he averaged 6.7 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.3 turnovers a game. He had three games this year where he had five turnovers, a high number for a center.

“I think he’s playing with a little bit more clarity,” OSU coach Mike Boynton said after the Arkansas game. “I think he admitted his mind wasn’t focused on the right things a couple weeks ago. It’s hard to play a game, especially when you’re relied on to do a lot of things without having the ball in your hands. So, if you’re frustrated about things that don’t matter, it’s really hard.

“A lot of his job is to help his teammate first, and if you’re worried about how things are going for you too much, it’s hard to do that. So, he seems to be more engaged as a teammate. I think that’s helped him have more individual success, and in turn, it’s helping our team, as well.”

Anderson entered the Cowboys’ starting lineup Dec. 20 against Texas and hasn’t left it. He has scored in double figures in six of his eight starts and is averaging 11.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and two assists per start.

Anderson’s biggest improvement from his freshman season has come from behind the arch. He was 2-for-26 (8%) from 3-point range as a freshman. Thus far this season, Anderson is 11-for-25 (44%) from 3-point range. That’s the second highest percentage on the team, trailing only Isaac Likekele who has shot just 15 3s.

It would be easy to think that Anderson, a traditional point guard, could get lost in the shuffle this season with Cunningham and Likekele on the squad. But, Anderson has been able to carve out his role starting alongside the Pokes’ two big ballhandlers.

“Avery Anderson is as competitive of a kid as I’ve ever seen,” Boynton said. “He’s upset when he’s on Cade’s team in practice because he knows where (Cade) is going, and he wants to have that challenge.”

Wednesday, Boone and Anderson will get a chance to right a wrong from earlier in the season.

In OSU’s first meeting with TCU, Boone scored eight points but had five turnovers and only three rebounds. Meanwhile, Kevin Samuel, TCU’s big, had 18 points, eight rebounds and seven blocks. Anderson had just two points, a rebound and two assists in the Cowboys’ 77-76 loss.

“Honestly, we can’t give [Samuel] as much as we gave up last game we played him, which was like offensive rebounds and easy rolls to the rim and stuff,” Boone said. “That first game I didn’t play with energy, and I didn’t set a tone for the rest of the bigs. I’ve got to come in and set a tone for MA [Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe}, Keylan [Boone] and Bernard [Kouma]. I’ve just got to set a tone for the bigs.

“If I get punked then that gives Samuel motivation against the bigs. We’ve been playing good lately, so I’ve just got to step up from last time.”

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