STILLWATER — Oklahoma State got one step closer to playing its best basketball against Iowa State on Tuesday.
The Cowboys had a strong start to the first half while cutting down on their turnovers and didn’t allowing their usual second-half run in a 76-58 win over the Cyclones.
OSU coach Mike Boynton said his teams usually play their best basketball toward the end of the year, and this team is getting closer to that mark.
“I’ll always want more as a coach,” Boynton said. “I’ll always demand more because I know we have more to give. …We haven’t played a complete game where everybody is clicking, but we’re much closer today than we were a week and a half ago.”
Freshman Cade Cunningham is known for his second-half heroics, but he did the bulk of his scoring in the first half. The Big 12’s leading scorer tallied 15 of his 21 points in the opening half to propel the Cowboys to a 42-30 lead. He finished with five rebounds, three steals and had seven of OSU’s 20 assists. It’s his eighth 20-point game this season.
Kalib Boone and Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe combined for 34 points. Moncrieffe finished with 19 points and eight rebounds while Boone added 15 points and five boards. Six of Boone’s seven field goals were dunks, and the Cowboys finished with 44 points in the paint.
“We’ve got high-level bigs on the defensive and offensive end,” Boone said. “So we just did things that we’re good at. That’s crashing the glass and just the little things.”
OSU (14-6, 7-6 Big 12) has struggled with holding big leads this year because of second-half scoring droughts. Iowa State managed to pull within six points with 11:43 left, but the Cowboys never allowed a major second-half run and outscored the Cyclones (2-15, 0-12) in both halves.
OSU had a strong showing against an Iowa State team that is still looking for its first conference win, and Moncrieffe reminded everybody that the Cowboys are doing it without their most experienced player.
“We’re playing great basketball without one of our best players right now,” Moncrieffe said. “We’re going to be so happy to have (Isaac Likekele) back. We’re going to be even better.”
Likekele has missed the last two games because of a foot injury, and Rondel Walker has started in his place. Walker played well in the first start of his career against Kansas State last week and followed it by scoring 10 points, grabbing four rebounds and collecting four steals against Iowa State.
The Cowboys will now have to play its toughest stretch of the year to close out the regular season. Saturday’s game at No. 2 Baylor has been postponed, and the Cowboys will host No. 15 Texas Tech at 8 p.m. Monday before playing back-to-back Bedlam games against Oklahoma.