Isaac Likekele is a in-your-face, ball-hawking defender.
He has the ability to shut down team’s best players and that is exactly what his job was in the Oklahoma State men’s basketball team’s 72-57 victory against TCU on Wednesday at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
Likekele was matched up against the Horned Frogs’ Desmond Bane. The senior forward led TCU with 20 points in its victory against the Cowboys last month.
Likekele and the Cowboys (11-11, 1-8 Big 12) didn’t want to see a repeat of Bane’s performance.
“I took a personal pride coming into the game guarding him,” Likekele said.
Likekele face guarded Bane the majority of the game and didn’t allow him to get more than arm’s length away from him. There were only a few times where another Cowboy was matched up against Bane, however, it was mostly because of players helping on defense.
Likekele’s hard defense kept Bane to only seven points in the first half. However, five of Bane's points were when Likekele wasn’t guarding him.
Coach Mike Boynton praised Likekele’s ability to shutdown the Horned Frogs' leading scorer.
“(Likekele’s) defensive effort tonight was outstanding,” Boynton said. “He was the guy asked to guard Bane most of the game and being able to do it on both ends of the court is what makes him unique.”
The Cowboys started to pull away from TCU (13-9, 4-5) midway through the second half and Bane was once again locked down. He scored seven points in the half to finish the game with 14 points on 6-for-15 shooting.
Defense wasn’t the only place where Likekele shined as he led the Cowboys' offense all night.
Likekele recorded his first career double-double with 15 points and 11 assists on 4-for-9 shooting from the field and 7-for-10 from the foul line.
It was certainly one of his best performances since coming back from an injury earlier in the season.
Likekele said the double-double wasn’t because he was playing differently than he was used to.
“I can’t really explain the feeling,” Likekele said. “I kinda just feel like it is what it is to me type of deal. I don’t play really differently from my stance. I’m just glad we came out here and got the win today.”
Likekele’s performance was what Boynton wanted to see from all of his players. He played well both on offense and defense. It’s been what Boynton has preached all season.
The team can only compete when they’re working well on both sides of the court.
“I’m thankful that (Likekele) set the tone for us,” Boynton said. “He made it hard for Bane to get good, comfortable looks. Then obviously some other of his teammates came over and helped him when he did get broken down so it was a great team effort.”