HOUSTON -- Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton pointed to his team’s 61-55 win over the Houston Cougars on Sunday afternoon as the type of win that can have ripple effects for a program.
Yor Anei scored 18 points to lead the Cowboys to an impressive road win over the Cougars.
Anei scored a layup with less than a minute remaining and later hit two clutch free throws. For the Cowboys (8-2), Cameron McGriff had 12 points, and Lindy Waters III and Thomas Dziagwa both added 11 points.
“I think this is a win that will carry for a long time for us,” Boynton said. “This was a really good game for us.”
Caleb Mills led Houston (6-3) with 23 points off the bench, a career high for the redshirt freshman.
Houston struggled to stop Anei, a 6-foot-10 sophomore, who made 5 of 10 shots from the field, 8 of 9 free throws and added eight rebounds.
Oklahoma State led for much of the game until Mills hit two free throws for Houston to tie the score at 50 with 3:40 remaining. The free throws capped a 10-0 run for the Cougars during Oklahoma State’s scoring drought of more than three minutes.
Oklahoma State dominated the first half with hot shooting and relentless defensive pressure. The Cowboys jumped to a 9-2 lead before Houston clawed back and briefly kept pace. Mills hit a 3-pointer to cut Oklahoma State’s lead to 21-19 with 7:29 remaining in the first half.
Those would be the last points the Cougars would score in the first half. The Cowboys scored the final 14 points to take a 35-19 into halftime.
“We played like we thought the game started at 3 o’clock,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. “It started at 2. Oklahoma State started playing at two. You shouldn’t have to lose a game to learn a lesson.”
Sampson said that his team on Sunday showed a lack of senior leadership, toughness and preparedness that fueled last year’s Houston team that made it to the Sweet 16. Sophomore Quentin Grimes, who entered Sunday leading the team with 16.9 points per game, went scoreless in nearly 34 minutes of play, missing seven shots, including five 3s, and, also missed a free throw.
With 18:35 left to play, the Cougars finally ended their scoring drought at just under nine minutes with a jumper from Mills.
“I kept telling our guys, ‘They’re going to make a run -- they’re a really good basketball team,’” Boynton said. “Playing at home, that’s what really good teams do. They’re not going to go away easily.”
After a 7-0 start to the season, Oklahoma State had lost its previous two games. For the Cougars, the loss snaps a four-game winning streak.
In their previous matchup, Houston cruised to a 63-53 win in Stillwater last December as part of their 15-0 start to the season.
“Fortunately, I haven’t been able to say this a lot, but very rarely do you see a team come in here and outcompete us,” Sampson said. “I think that’s the thing that bothers me the most. Losing a game? I’m not a fan, but I don’t overreact to losing a game. But the way we lost that game today -- we came back and tied it. Where was the team that tied it?”
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys reversed course on their recent slump by putting a stronger emphasis on rebounding. After being outrebounded 42-31 in an 80-61 loss to Wichita State, they were only slightly outrebounded by Houston 40-39. Keeping that trend in their final two non-conference games will be critical for a strong start to Big 12 play in January.
Houston: The Cougars entered Sunday ranked third among Division I teams with an offensive rebound percentage of 40.7% and averaged 14.5 offensive rebounds per game. Against Oklahoma State, the Cougars won the rebound margin 40-39 overall but were outrebounded 29-17 on the offensive end. Maintaining their rebounding identity will be critical for Houston when the deep shots aren’t falling.
CHRIS HARRIS, JR. vs. CHRIS HARRIS, JR.
Oklahoma State and Houston both had players named Chris Harris, Jr. in the game. The Cowboys’ Harris had five points and three rebounds off the bench, while Houston’s Harris had two points, five rebounds and two blocks.
“We talked about that throughout the week, and we were trying to figure out with the radio crew how they were going to handle that,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton said. “I thought that was pretty unique. I’m sure that hasn’t happened very often at all.”
HE SAID IT
“Play to the culture of the program. And today, we disrespected our program, and we disrespected a lot of the kids that have come through here over the years. That’s disappointing,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys host Minnesota at the Bank of Oklahoma Center in Tulsa on Saturday afternoon.
Houston: The Cougars host the 6-1 University of Texas-El Paso Miners on Thursday night.
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