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A Likekele hero: Likekele’s blocked shot secures Cowboys victory over West Virginia

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West Virginia and Oklahoma State compete during the Phillips 66 Big 12 Basketball Championship at the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, Missouri on March 10, 2021. (Denny Medley\Big 12 Conference)

Isaac Likekele extended his right hand into the air.

His hand, braced and bandaged, made contact with a 3-point shot from Taz Sherman with seven seconds left in the game.

Sherman, who had guided the Mountaineers back into the game, and regained the lead for West Virginia a minute earlier, was the player they wanted to take the last shot.

That was West Virginia’s final shot of the game. The tipped ball secured a 72-69 victory for Oklahoma State against West Virginia in the quarterfinal round of the Big 12 Tournament.

“(Likekele) understands what it takes,” coach Mike Boynton said. “He’s always in the right position to make those types of plays, specifically on the defensive end.”

Likekele hadn’t played a game since Feb. 23 against Texas Tech, missing the past four games with an undisclosed right hand injury. Prior to that he missed two games with an undisclosed foot injury.

Six of the Cowboys last seven were without their junior leader, but he made up for his missed time.

Likekele didn’t start the game, instead coming off the bench and playing 26 minutes. He finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and three assists.

Cade Cunningham and Avery Anderson each had 17 points, handling the majority of the offense, allowing Likekele to have a bigger defensive contribution. The tipped ball was his biggest moment in his return.

“It shows what type of competitor he is,” Cade Cunningham said. “Even when things aren’t going the way he might want them to go, he’s still going to try to compete.”

Likekele wasn’t available after the game, but Boynton said his leadership and experience were vital on the court.

“He’s a winner,” Boynton said. “He’s always talking about the little things. He’s talking about blocking out and running shooters off the line.”