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Cowboys meltdown in another home conference game

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Rondel Walker

Rondel Walker looks at his teammates during Oklahoma State's loss to West Virginia in Gallagher-Iba Arena on January 4, 2021.

Oklahoma State has played in two Big 12 conference games inside Gallagher-Iba Arena, and it has blown second halves leads in both of them.

The Cowboys blew a 19-point second half lead to West Virginia and fell to the No. 14 Mountaineers 87-84 on Monday night. The loss takes the Cowboys to 7-3 overall and 1-3 in conference play.

In all three of the OSU losses, the team held a lead of eight or more points at some point in the second half, but this one hurts the most.

“We should’ve won the game, there’s no two ways about it,” coach Mike Boynton said. “We played well enough for 32 minutes, and to clearly be the better team tonight, I hope one thing our guys take away from it is we’ve got to finish. It’s a 40-minute game.”

With 11:15 left in the game, Rondel Walker hit two free throws to put the Cowboys up 19 points on the Mountaineers. In that moment, everything seemed to be clicking for the Cowboys.

Then all of a sudden, it wasn’t.

West Virginia went on a 11-0 run fueled by some turnovers for the Cowboys. In a blink of an eye, the Cowboys lead was dissipated, and they were playing from behind.

“We got too comfortable, really,” Cade Cunningham said. “We have to respect the game. We have to play the right way, and if you don’t, it’s going to come back and bite you. We didn’t do that, we had too many turnovers. It starts with me, I had five being the primary ball handlers, me and (Isaac Likekele), it starts with us.”

In the loss, Likekele had his highest scoring night of the season with 22 on 9-of-14 shooting. He also had seven rebounds and four assists. The Cowboys have emphasized in recent weeks getting Likekele more involved in the offense.

In the previous two games, Likekele has averaged 19.5 points and 3.5 assists.

“I’m just going out there and playing,” Likekekle said. “I’m doing less thinking and just playing. I’m going off my first instinct. These guys keep telling me, I need to play at my best for us to be our best, so I’m just trying to go in and give them that everyday.”

The Cowboys don’t have long to stew over this loss with their next game being Saturday at Kansas State, but the team led by Cunningham and Likekele will be ready for battle.

“We’ll be back,” Cunningham said before ending the postgame conference.