STILLWATER — After a rough first game, the Cowboys were as good as advertised in their home opener.
Oklahoma State beat Texas Southern 85-65 on Saturday in Gallagher-Iba Arena. Cade Cunningham again stole the show, scoring a team-high 20 points to go with four rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks.
Cunningham got some help from his former AAU teammate Rondel Walker. The Putnam City-West alumnus scored a career-high (through two games) 19 points. He scored on back-to-back-to-back 3-point attempts, all coming off Cunningham assists.
Even with Cunningham and Isaac Likekele in early foul trouble, the Cowboys opened up a 41-30 lead at the half and were obviously able to expand it in the second half.
OSU is off until Tuesday, where the Cowboys will have a highly anticipated road game against Marquette in the Big 12/Big East Battle. With that, here are five thoughts on Saturday’s game.
1. Less Sloppy
This is what OSU’s first game would’ve looked like had the Cowboys hit free throws and taken care of the ball.
OSU purely had more talent than Texas Southern, and the final score reflected that. Against UT-Arlington, the Pokes had 18 turnovers and missed 13 free throws. Saturday night, OSU had just 10 turnovers and was 21-for-27 from the stripe.
There was some “Oh, here we go again” from the fanbase when the Cowboys struggled against UTA, but this is a young team that is still meshing with each other. If Saturday showed anything, it’s that this young team has a ton of talent.
2. They’re Too Small for Cade
Mike Boynton said Cade Cunningham was in GIA getting shots up at 7 a.m. on Thanksgiving.
Boynton said Cunningham wasn’t pleased with his 21-point, 10-rebound debut, so he was in the gym working while most were dreaming of turkey.
In his second college game, Cunningham scored 20 points to go with four boards, four assists, two blocks and two steals. He also had just two turnovers compared with the five he gave away against UTA.
Through two games, Cunningham has shown this innate ability to dominate without it seeming too much like he is dominating. He was able to better exploit mismatches against Texas Southern, backing down smaller guards to the block before scoring over them.
If he was Russell Westbrook, he would be rocking babies all night long.
3. Welcome to the Show, Rondel Walker
Boynton has long said Rondel Walker is going to be tough to keep off the floor, and Walker proved that Saturday.
Walker scored 19 points in his debut in the gym he has visited since he was a freshman in high school. He was able to do it in a variety of ways, scoring a pair of and-ones while also knocking down three 3s.
He is an exciting prospect in that he is also a capable defender at a long 6-foot-4. Walker will be a great piece for Boynton in the future, but he is a dang good piece right now.
For just the second time in his career, Isaac Likekele has attempted multiple 3s in consecutive games, and he has made half of them.
His form looks smoother, and if Likekele becomes a capable 3-point shooter, there might be no stopping him. Him shooting 3s forces defenders to be closer to him on the perimeter, and if they’re closer to him, Likekele will have an easier time driving past them. He doesn’t need to be Phil Forte (I really wanted to say Thomas Dziagwa), but just the threat will be enough to help to terrorize defenses.
Likekele was somewhat quite again Saturday, but he still stuffed the box score with eight points, six rebounds and four assists. His do-it-all ability will be vital for the Pokes this season.
5. MAM Jam
There isn’t too much to think about here, just enjoy.
This thunderous throw down nearly caused OSU’s bench to storm the floor. Boynton, on the other hand, wasn’t all that impressed.
“It was pretty good,” Boynton said. “It’s not the best one I’ve seen, to be honest, but it’s up there. But, that won’t be the last time we see him make a play like that. He’s pretty aggressive around the basket.”