By Chad Waters
Oklahoma State (7-3, 1-3) led by as many as 19 points in the second half, but once again, the Cowboys let a double-digit lead slip away late. OSU could not hold off No. 14 West Virginia (9-3, 2-2), as the Mountaineers spoiled the Pokes “Big Monday” game inside Gallagher-Iba Arena, 87-84.
It was the third-consecutive game in which the Cowboys allowed a significant comeback. Last Saturday, OSU surrendered a 12-point lead against Texas Tech before holding on to win in overtime. In all three of their losses this season, the Cowboys held a lead of eight or more points at some point in the second half.
OSU’s star freshman Cade Cunningham finished with a game-high 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting, nine rebounds, three assists, and three steals but was on the bench for the final possession after fouling out for a second-straight game. OSU junior guard Isaac Likekele added a season-high 22 points on 14 shots, seven rebounds, and four assists. Both Cunningham and Likekele were more aggressive early on for the first time this season as Cunningham made his first three shots while Likekele made his first six. The duo combined for 25 of OSU’s 45 first-half points, going 9-of-11 in the first 20 minutes of play.
The Cowboys led by 10 at halftime and increased their advantage to 68-49 when freshman Rondel Walker sunk a pair of free throws with 11:15 remaining. However, Cunningham picked up his fourth foul with 8:49 remaining, forcing him to watch most of the West Virginia comeback from the bench. The Mountaineers went on a stunning 18-3 run over a four-minute period that silenced GIA’s socially distanced crowd of 3,350.
West Virginia saw its first lead, 76-75, with 3:01 remaining in the second half. Then, with the Mountaineers up 83-81, Cunningham drove to the basket with a chance to tie the game but was called for charging, his fifth foul, with 31.1 seconds remaining. Just moments after making a 3-pointer to bring the Cowboys within one point with 19 seconds left, Walker missed the would-be game-tying shot in the final seconds.
In familiar fashion, second-half turnovers from the Cowboys and a couple of hot hands from the visitors gave OSU its third loss on the season, all-of-which coming by three points or less. The impressive comeback didn’t surprise coach Bob Huggins and the Mountaineers, who sparked a 15-point comeback in the second half against the Oklahoma Sooners in Norman last Saturday.
West Virginia junior forward Derek Culver earned his Big 12-leading sixth double-double of the season with 22 points and an eye opening 19 rebounds (7 offensive) to lead the Mountaineers. Sophomore Miles McBride scored 19 of his 21 points after halftime for West Virginia, including 14 in the final four minutes. Senior Taz Sherman added 20 points off the bench for the Mountaineers.
Oklahoma State returns to action against Kansas State (5-6, 1-2 Big 12) Saturday in Manhattan at 5 p.m. on ESPN2.
- Oklahoma State shot 47 percent from the field, while West Virginia shot 41 percent. The Mountaineers took advantage of the Cowboys on the offensive boards, grabbing 22 compared to 15 for the Pokes.
- The Cowboys were without starting forward Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe on Monday, who had started the previous two games for Oklahoma State. Moncrieffe didn’t suit up at all against the Mountaineers and didn’t play in the overtime period in the team’s last game against Texas Tech. Therefore, the speculation is injury, but the severity is unknown.
- Sophomore forward Kalib Boone started in place of Moncrieffe, scoring four points and grabbing four rebounds in 15 minutes. Fellow sophomore forward Bernard Kouma saw minutes for the first time in two games, giving the Cowboys eight minutes as the backup big man. Kouma scored on his lone shot attempt and grabbed two rebounds against the Mountaineers.
- Senior guard Bryce Williams and freshman guard Rondel Walker were two of four Cowboys to provide double-digit scoring. Williams finished with 11 points while Walker scored 12 points.