Oklahoma State didn’t have its best player, Cade Cunningham, against Baylor over the weekend, and the freshman could also miss Monday’s game at Iowa State.
“Sitting here I would say it’s 50-50, but I don’t know,” OSU head coach Mike Boynton said after Saturday’s 81-66 loss to the No. 2 Bears.
COVID-19 protocols kept Cunningham out of the game, and he watched from the bench in street clothes. He participated in some of the pregame warmups but wasn’t warming up with the team moments before tipoff.
Saturday was the first day he was cleared for physical activity since OSU shut down all team activities on Jan. 15. Boynton said having him participate in warmups was a good chance for Cunningham to get some reps in for the first time in over a week.
“He couldn’t play a game having not practiced,” Boynton said. “He needed to be here, but he couldn’t play. I wasn’t going to play him. I’m not going to make him dress and then be tempted to put him in when they’re making a run. I’m not going to do that.”
The Cowboys tip off against Iowa State at 8 p.m. Monday, and Cunningham isn’t listed as a projected starter in the OSU game notes. He is included in the “other key Cowboys” section, which suggests there is a possibility he could see reduced minutes off the bench.
The Cowboys have played well when Cunningham isn’t on the court. OSU outplayed Texas Tech down the stretch when Cunningham fouled out in overtime. The Cowboys also went toe-to-toe with Baylor for 29 minutes before the Bears created distance with a 19-1 run in the second half. OSU led for most of the first half of that game.
Boynton offered more context as to why protocols kept Cunningham from playing but allowed him to still be with the team on Saturday.
“There is a time period here in which you aren’t allowed to be around, and then at some point that time does pass,” Boynton said. “He doesn’t have to stay away from our team forever, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that when he’s around he’s able to play or that he’s been in our preparation and can help us. We’re kind of in the middle ground. We’re going to work our way back and we’re just going to continue to follow the guidance that our medical team has put for us.”
Both OSU and Iowa State have been dealing with COVID-19 issues. The Cyclones announced they were pausing all team activities on the same day OSU announced its shut down. Iowa State, which is 2-7 overall and winless in conference play, has had four consecutive games postponed. Monday’s game will be its first since a 91-64 loss against Texas Tech on Jan. 9.