STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma State had endured a difficult stretch lately, having gone winless in Big 12 play so far, and struggling to a 3-11 record overall during the past two-plus months. So missing one starter and another important contributor off the bench, the Cowboys faced another tough test Wednesday night.
Isaac Likekele scored 15 points and 11 assists for his first career double-double to help lead Oklahoma State to a 72-57 victory over TCU.
It was the first win in Big 12 play for Oklahoma State (11-11, 1-8 Big 12), which still sits in last place in the conference.
Thomas Dziagwa and Yor Anei each scored 14 points for the Cowboys, who avenged a 52-40 defeat at TCU on Jan. 11.
“I’m unbelievably happy for our players,” said OSU coach Mike Boynton. “It’s been a tough road to hoe here, pretty much since November ended. We’ve had some success, but it’s been spotty and we’ve had a lot of moments where we’re scratching our heads trying to figure it out. But tonight, they continued to work and believe in each other. I’m really proud of them.”
Missing second-leading scorer Lindy Waters and freshman Anthony Anderson due to injuries, Likekele delivered a strong performance at both ends of the floor. He also had six rebounds and two blocked shots. And Dziagwa, who had started 47 straight game before being replaced in the starting lineup two weeks ago, made 4 of 10 from 3-point range.
“I don’t know if I want to say a gut-check moment, but it was a back-against-the-wall, what are we made of?” Dziagwa said of the short-handed situation. “But I think we pride ourselves this whole year on having guys that can step up when guys go down. That’s how we practice, everybody competes and you can see that. Guys just embody their roles.”
R.J. Nembhard had 16 points and six rebounds, while Desmond Bane added 14 points, eight rebounds and six assists for TCU (13-9, 4-5), which has lost four in a row and six of its last seven.
“They outplayed us,” said Horned Frogs coach Jamie Dixon. “The second half, it looked like we were executing and doing the things we talked about, but once again, we just can’t seem to sustain. Really disappointed in how we finished the game; couldn’t seem to do anything right offensively.”
After TCU went ahead 43-40 with 14:17 remaining, the Cowboys reeled off a 19-2 run over the next eight minutes, a stretch in which TCU shot just 1-of-10 from the floor. The run gave Oklahoma State its biggest lead of the game to that point, 59-45.
The Horned Frogs capped a 6-0 run with Nembhard’s five-foot jump shot to pull to within 61-53 with 3:21 to play, but that was as close as they would get.
“The players were talking and we were like, ‘We’ve been here before, we’ve made those mistakes, let’s learn from it right here, right now,’” Likekele said. “‘It’s going to define pretty much our season and how it could go. And we just took it to heart and we learned from our mistakes and got the win.”
TCU: The Horned Frogs had several stretches of falling behind big, then battling back, but they could not pull it off one last time. They trailed most of the opening half, going down 24-17 with 9:02 left, then reeled off an 11-2 run over the next six-plus minutes, a stretch in which they forced Oklahoma State to miss 10 straight shots. Jaire Grayer’s two free throws with 2:45 remaining gave TCU its first lead, 28-26. Oklahoma State responded with a 12-2 run to go up 38-30 early in the second, but the Horned Frogs put together another big run, scoring 10 straight points to take back the lead again, 40-38, with 15:36 to go.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys dealt with some injury issues, as senior starting guard Waters, second on the team in scoring (11.3 points per game) missed his first game since Jan. 3, 2018, a span of 75 games. He was out due to a facial fracture suffered in the Cowboys’ 82-69 loss at Oklahoma last Saturday. Anderson sat out with a back bruise. Guard Chris Harris Jr., who started for Waters, exited the contest after just 5:55 due to a lower left leg injury, and did not return. Harris couldn’t put any weight on his leg as he was helped off the court.
TCU won the rebounding battle 39-36 although Oklahoma State had a 20-17 edge in the second half. … TCU entered the game leading the Big 12 in 3-pointers made, averaging 9.0 per game, and 3-point shooting percentage (35.1), but went just 4-for-19 (21.1 %). … Oklahoma State’s Cameron McGriff had six points in the first 5:55 of the game and didn’t score again until he sank two free throws with 1:51 left in the contest. He ended up with 10 points and eight rebounds.
TCU: The Horned Frogs return home to face No. 3 Kansas on Saturday morning.
Oklahoma State: The path doesn’t get any easier for the Cowboys, who head to Waco on Saturday to take on No. 1 Baylor.
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