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Notebook:Cowboys slide in second half against West Virignia

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Kalib Boone, Avery Anderson, and Issac Likekele

Issac Likekele, Avery Anderson, and Kalib Boone celebrate during Oklahoma State's loss to West Virginia in Gallagher-Iba Arena on January 4, 2021.

Cade Cunningham watched helplessly from the sidelines as the Cowboys launched their last-second desperation heave clank off the rim.

If Cunningham hadn’t fouled out with 31 seconds left, he would have certainly had the ball in his hands on the Cowboys’ final possession. Center Kalib Boone, who fouled out a few minutes earlier, joined Cunningham on the bench.

Foul trouble wasn’t why OSU blew their 19-point second-half lead against West Virginia, but it definitely hurt them down the stretch.

OSU’s two biggest players were tasked with defending West Virginia center Derek Culver for the majority of the game. When Boone fouled out, it left Cunningham with four fouls as the only player with size to guard him, but Cunningham’s four fouls kept him from defending and rebounding as aggressively as normal.

Bernard Kouma received a few crunch time minutes, but he was subbed out after providing little resistance.

Cade and Ice

The first 30 minutes of the game offered a glimpse at just how special a backcourt pairing Cunningham and Isaac Likekele could be.

Likekele was ferocious in attacking the paint early on, scoring 16 first-half points. Over the past two games, he has certainly taken coach Mike Boynton’s message to be more aggressive to heart.

Opposite him, Cunningham played maybe his best game in an OSU uniform before he succumbed to foul trouble. He was efficient on offense and stout on defense, scoring 25 points to go with nine rebounds and three assists.

If the backcourt pairing can play like this on a consistent basis, it will be a matchup nightmare for the Big 12.

Fumbled last chance opportunities

Even after the Cowboys blew their lead, they still had a quality chance to tie the game but failed to execute.

West Virginia split a pair of free throws with 27 seconds left which kept it a one-possession game. Bryce Williams was inexplicably fouled near half-court. Just two seconds later. It would have allowed the Cowboys to score without taking time off the clock, but Williams missed the free throw.

On the final possession, down by three, Rondel Walker hoisted a low percentage fadeaway 3-pointer before the ball was rebounded by Keylan Boone. Instead of kicking the ball out for another chance to tie with time on the clock, Boone wildly threw up a putback attempt that wouldn’t have mattered even if it went in.

sports.ed@ocolly.com