STILLWATER — Oklahoma State guard Isaac Likekele thought regulation was over. Overtime was next. So, he grabbed the basketball and innocently threw it toward the basket.
Chaos instead ensued.
As the high-arching shot from the Cowboys’ baseline went over the backboard and dropped through the air, the crowd was silent, mostly holding its breath, even with the miniscule chance it counted.
Somehow, the basketball went through the net.
Likekele did not react. He believed there was no way it counted.
There actually was time on the clock. A replay on Gallagher-Iba Arena’s videoboard hanging over midcourt showed that. The Cowboys celebrated. They believed they had another upset over Baylor, the defending national champions.
But in a season of heartbreak, one more was coming.
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“Next thing you know, I’m looking at the clock,” Likekele said. “It kinda looked good on the clock that we was looking at, but I guess they seen otherwise.”
They being the officials.
Officials initially ruled the shot did not count. Replay confirmed it, but only because of the shot clock, which was just tenths of a second ahead of the game clock.
In the backdrop of a roaring 8,701 fans inside Gallagher-Iba Arena, the wildest finish that didn’t count stole the show in OSU’s near upset and wild 66-64 overtime loss to No. 10-ranked Baylor late Monday night.
Likekele’s shot would have completed a sweep of the defending national champions. It also would have been his 1,000th career point.
Instead, the shot is forever listed as a turnover with 0.7 seconds on the clock.
Nearly 5 game minutes later, Baylor guard James Akinjo actually hit the winning shot, a smooth, mid-range jumper with 13.6 seconds left in overtime.
An exciting back-and-forth game ended the opposite of pure elation from making a shot straight from a backyard game of “H-O-R-S-E.”
“At the end of the day, the game’s always been about players making plays,” OSU coach Mike Boynton said. “Their guys made some plays. Akinjo made two really difficult shots, which is why he’s an all-league kid.
“You pat him on the back and next time you get a chance you try to do better.”
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The Cowboys (13-14, 6-9 Big 12) were mostly better than the Bears for a second time this season.
OSU got off to a poor start, missing its first nine shots. But the Cowboys fought back and took an eight-point lead, making 15 of their final 21 shots in the opening half.
The offense was clicking again.
“We were scoring very easily against their man (defense),” said OSU guard Bryce Thompson, who scored 11 of his 15 points in the first half.
But Baylor broke out its zone defense, the Cowboys’ kryptonite, in the second half.
OSU’s offense stalled in the second half, shooting just 34.6%. The Cowboys adjusted, primarily putting Likekele at the high post and letting him facilitate.
Baylor took the lead with 10:44 remaining, but never put the game away
The Bears also took a 60-58 lead with 1:13 remaining on a 3-pointer from Adam Flagler, who scored 29 points and made seven treys after missing Saturday’s game with an injury.
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But Likekele made a put-back layup with 42 seconds remaining to tie the game.
OSU later got the ball back with 30.2 seconds on the clock after Flagler missed a 3. After a timeout, the Cowboys drew up a play for Thompson to shoot the game-winning jumper. When he missed, the basketball bounced around into Likekele’s hands.
Then, he tossed the wild shot that led to plenty of confusion.
“I didn’t see it,” Boynton said. “I never saw it. I didn’t see the replay. I look forward to seeing what kinda happened there.”
Boynton said he was more concerned with making sure there were no penalties for the Cowboys’ bench going onto the floor in celebration.
There were not.
On to overtime, where Thompson and Likekele made OSU’s only baskets. Thompson was again in line for the final shot but he was bumped off his route. Likekele instead took the 3 in the final seconds, missing another game-winner.
“It felt good,” Likekele said. “It felt like the best 3 I ever shot in my career here. I thought God had some arch on it for me and everything. It looked nice. But, you know, it is what it is. You know, roll with it.”
Likekele’s overtime basket did reach the 1,000 career-point mark, a high point even if he didn’t get the milestone on the game-winning shot.
He became the first player in program history to score 1,000 points, grab 600 rebounds and have 400 assists.
“That’s a category of my own?” he asked. “We’re going to leave it there. That speaks for itself.”
And on a night where he made but did not make the shot of his career, there is a bright side.
Jacob Unruh covers college sports for The Oklahoman. You can send your story ideas to him at [email protected] or on Twitter at @jacobunruh. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism