Syracuse Falls to Oklahoma State in NIT Season Tipoff
By Nicole Weaving
CitrusTV Basketball Reporter
BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Oklahoma State is known for their high-pressure defense, but the Cowboys offense came to play on Wednesday night. They shot 49.1% from the field, their second-highest shooting percentage of the season.
“We just tried to stay in attack mode because that’s how the 2-3 zone kills people, whenever everybody’s just looking to pass and not looking to score,” said OSU point guard Isaac Likekele.
Likekele and forward Yor Anei stifled the Orange as Syracuse (4-2, 0-1 Atlantic Coast) fell to Oklahoma State (6-0, 0-0 Big 12) 86-72 at Barclays Center.
The sophomore from Arlington, Texas, finished with a career-high 26 points and a season-high eight assists. Likekele mentioned that he knew he would have a good game against the Orange.
“My momma, she told me I was gonna have a good game,” said Likekele. “She prayed for me a lot, and as long as I keep God first, I feel like I could play good every night.”
Likekele led OSU’s offense by setting the pace with his dominant style of play. He not only drove to the basket aggressively, but he was also quick in transition, going coast-to-coast for a layup three times in the contest.
“He really set the tone, attacking and getting inside, finishing in transition, which put them on their heels for a great part of the game,” said OSU head coach Mike Boynton Jr.
Playing fast in transition was a trend across the entire team as the Cowboys recorded 35 fast-break points against the Orange.
“It was a big priority getting to beat the zone before they could get it set up. To get the ball and run and get easy baskets,” said Anei.
Anei provided a strong presence in the paint, tallying 16 points and eight rebounds. Oklahoma State put up 34 points down low compared to Syracuse’s 16.
“Yor continued to be aggressive, playing under control in the paint,” said Boynton. “He was pretty active around both ends of the court.”
Syracuse’s defense was physically outplayed, failing to get tough when Oklahoma State players drove to the basket and lagging in transition.
“They were really physical. They [Oklahoma State] got the ball up well,” said Buddy Boeheim. “We just got caught sleeping sometimes, trying to get offensive rebounds. They would get it and go right away, so they were a really smart team.”
The Orange can undoubtedly learn a lot from this loss, especially when facing physical teams in the future. Likekele especially challenged Joe Girard III both offensively and defensively.
“He sped me up at times, but at the same time, he pushed it out in transition. We didn’t get to stop him as well as we probably should’ve and credit to him,” said Girard.
SU head coach Jim Boeheim was able to see some positives for his defense when the team got set.
“We did a pretty good job in terms of guarding the three. They have guys who can shoot; everybody in the country does,” said Boeheim. “Half-court defense, we were okay there.”
Syracuse will now face Penn State in the third-place consolation game of the NIT Season Tipoff on Friday at Barclays Center.
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