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Five Thoughts on Oklahoma State’s 61-55 Win Over Houston

Why the Houston win is a great sign for the Cowboys moving forward.




The Cowboys earned an impressive road win in Houston despite a second-half comeback attempt from the home team. OSU ends a two-game skid and earned its first victory sans starting point guard Isaac Likekele. The sophomore was in attendance but did not suit up. Fortunately, they were able to escape with the win with just his moral support.

Let’s get into my five thoughts from a statement win for the Pokes.

1. Dee Mitchell Gets a Helmet Sticker

I know, wrong sport. And I also know that he made just one shot, but when Marshall Scott said Dee Mitchell was going to start my exact response was “hmmm.” My thought midway through the first half:

In the continued absence of Likekele, Mike Boynton this time went with the walk-on to start in lieu of Chris Harris Jr., who started the last two games. He filled in admirably and actually handled most of the offense when he was on the floor in stead of Lindy Waters like we’ve seen recently.

Mitchell came into the game having played only 15 minutes on the season and started his first career game on the road, in a tough place to play, and was really solid in 16 minutes. (Mitchell totaled just 24 in five games last year after joining a decimated roster by way of an open tryout.) In H-Town he scored just 2 points (on two attempts), had one assist and one rebound, but he did exactly what Boynton asked and OSU needed.

He ran the offense, was solid on D and didn’t try to do too much. Mitchell finished +11 in plus/minus without committing a single turnover. If OSU is at full strength I don’t know that Mitchell plays 16 more minutes in the two games before New Year’s, but he was better than the box score showed on Sunday and that’s a good sign for Boynton, his depth and a testament to his ability to develop players.

Also, this is a lot of confidence for a person who was not a college basketball player 12 months ago.

After the game, Boynton talked about the decision to start Mitchell over Harris, something he didn’t tell Mitchell until Sunday morning.

“I probably decided in my mind on Friday at practice,” said Boynton. “I kind of ran it by the staff, it’s always important to get their feedback. Then I just went it went with. That was gut that we needed a change. He’s more of a true point guard than Lindy is. It wasn’t anything against Chris, I wanted him to understand that, which is why I talked to him. But once again, it’s about Dee about responding to the opportunity and putting us in this position to have success today.”

2. Yor on the Floor

After being limited by foul trouble in the last two games, when OSU needed him most, Yor Anei cleaned things up and was the star we know he can be.

With Likekele already sidelined, Anei fouled out each of the last two games and the Cowboys sorely missed him. In those losses to Georgetown and Wichita State, Anei totaled 15 points and two rebounds in 31 minutes.

On Sunday he wasn’t whistled for his second infraction until nearly four minutes into the second half and played 28 minutes while leading the Cowboys with 18 points, eight rebounds and a block. His value cannot be quantified by that stat line or a simple plus/minus number —  but he turned in a game-high +18. Shocker: OSU needs Yor on the floor.

3. Cowboys Corralled Grimes

The last time Oklahoma State faced sophomore guard Quentin Grimes he was playing for Kansas and exploded for 17 points (including four 3-pointers), four rebounds, three assists and a steal in the Jayhawks’ 72-67 win GIA.

Grimes dipped his toe in NBA waters this offseason and Bill Self, in turn, filled his scholarship meaning he could not return to KU. He was immediately eligible to play at Houston and has been the Cougars’ leading scorer so far this year (16.9 per game) coming in.

But the Cowboys held the American Athletic Conference’s No. 2 scorer scoreless on Sunday. Grimes went 0-for-7 from the field (0-for-5 from 3) for zero points and three rebounds in 33 minutes.

Who would have that that Dee Mitchell, who joined the Cowboys via open tryouts last season, would outplay the No. 10 overall prospect in the country last year? Not I.

4. A Tough Place to Win

It’s not easy to earn Ws in Fertitta Center. Coming into Sunday, Houston was 4-1 at home after going 19-1 last season. Late in the game, it looked like the Cougars suddenly remembered that impressive stat going on run after run to chip away at the Cowboys’ lead.

When Houston came back from down 18 in the second half and tied it up with under four minutes to go, it looked like that trend would hold up. But Yor and OSU’s veterans came up big.

Shades of Lubbock.

Which leads me to…

5. A Renewed Confidence in this Team

I’m not saying I wasn’t already confident, but a losing streak tends to dampen the belief you earn after a 7-0 start. This was a huge win for the Pokes in more ways than one.

Carson brought up a great point in the PFB Slack: How fun will it be when OSU gets a lower seed in March because the committee doesn’t respect how good Isaac Likekele is?

He and Yor are probably 1a/1b in terms of importance to this team this season. So the ability to go on the road, in that tough environment, and grind out a win without the former is huge. There is still a lot of youth and inexperience on this roster which means this should be a much better team in late January than it is now, and it should be even better in February-March.


• A dumb thing I thought when looking at the starting lineups the first time: Maybe there is an obscure rule that only allows one Chris Harris Jr. to be on the floor at one time and Mike Boynton lost that coin toss.

• In Quentin Grimes’ scoring absence was freshman wing Caleb Mills with a game (and career) high 23 points on 18 attempts. The 8-for-18 final stat line does not compute for me. From my memory nearly everything he threw up went in.

• OSU’s sticking with the 2-3 zone look brilliant in the first half, especially when the Cowboys outscored the Cougs 20-3 in the nine-plus minutes head into halftime. I started to have my doubts in the second. *Looks at boxscore* Houston was 2-of-13 from deep in the second. What do I know?

• Dizzy was good on Sunday. His confidence has never been in question but his defense is improved and his mini streak of three-straight 3s was a huge part of OSU’s early lead.

Next up: The Cowboys head closer to home when they play Minnesota at the BOK Center on Saturday at 4:30 p.m.

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