Isaac Likekele knew something was off during the shoot around.
He couldn’t put a finger on why but the aurora around the team didn’t match the typical high energy of Oklahoma State. The downside of the mood was felt with Oakland upsetting the Cowboys 56-55 inside of Gallagher-Iba Arena Friday night.
“The aurora around shoot around just wasn’t what it used to be,” Likekele said. “We went out there and started off really slow. It’s a lesson learned.”
Coach Mike Boynton saw it too.
“I did (notice the aurora was off),” Boynton said. “You could sense it in the shoot around. Whether it was score watching, feeling too good about Tuesday, I don’t know. There’s a number of things it could be, but at the end of the day none of that matters.
“We have a job to do when we step onto that court.”
From the opening tip Oakland hung around and gave OSU fits with its tight zone, something the Golden Grizzlies have perfected under coach Greg Kampe, who is in his 38th season with Oakland.
The zone was able to force the Cowboys to turn the ball over 13 times in the first half and 18 times total in the game.
“They’re good at (the zone). It’s not something we see, we don’t practice against that type of zone,” Boynton said.
Oakland was able to out rebound the Cowboys, outshoot them from three and from the free throw line. The Cowboys shot worse than 18% from behind the arc with a 3-17 mark and only 50% from the free throw line shooting 6-12.
Oakland held an eight point lead at halftime, a lead which disappeared at the beginning of the second half. OSU had found new life. Life sparked by being able to do what they want to do on offense and defense, run the floor.
However, even with OSU’s new momentum the Cowboys couldn't slam the door on the Golden Grizzlies. Even with the crowd of 8,729, which was large for an early season contest, Oakland hung around.
“We have to do it for 40 minutes,” Boynton said. “We just didn’t make the next play. We kept the door open enough that (Oakland) never felt the game was getting away from them.”
Then the Golden Grizzlies struck.
With 33 seconds remaining Bryce Thompson drove into the paint and scored to give the Cowboys a one point advantage.
After the ensuing OSU timeout Oakland got the ball to their playmaker Jalen Moore, who finished with 16 points, he stood outside the three-point line and let the clock tick down. With eight seconds left Moore did exactly what OSU assistant coach Terrence Rencher warned the Cowboys of during the timeout, he jumped into Avery Anderson on a three-point attempt.
The whistle blew and Anderson was called for the foul, it was his fifth.
Moore had three free throws and needed just two for the lead. He did just that and sank two of three.
It was time for OSU to make a play, or be dealt an early season upset.
Likekele took the ball up the court, and had the decision in his hands, either drive for a layup or dish the ball out for a jumper.
He chose the latter.
“I want to watch the film on it,” Likekele said. “Maybe I could’ve put it on the glass for a layup.”
He found Bryce Thompson for a good look from three-point range, but the attempt fell short and the Cowboys, who entered as more than 15 point favorites, were upset.
Although the play was fine in Boynton’s eyes, he said it shouldn’t have come to that.
“Kampe is a tremendous coach and he’s been there for as long as I’ve been alive, but it should not have come down to us having to make a shot on the last possession,” Boynton said.