‘That’s what big-time players do:’ OSU’s Cunningham connects on late three-pointer to seal victory


Khánh Nguyễn/ The Sunflower

Oklahoma State freshman Cade Cunningham directs the offense during the game agaisnt Wichita State at Koch Area on Dec. 12.

With the game tied between Wichita State and Oklahoma State under one minute left, there was little doubt who would be taking the final shot for the Cowboys. 

The top recruit in the 2020 recruiting class and the potential No. 1 pick, Cade Cunningham had been struggling to get in a rhythm offensively. Cunningham only had seven points and was 3-10 from the field. 

But with 10 seconds left in the tie game, Cunningham shot a contested three-pointer over Dexter Dennis and sank it to give OSU a late 67-64 lead. 

“Cade Cunningham tonight showed why he’s a million-dollar man,” Interim Head Coach Isaac Brown said. “He stepped up and made a big-time shot, what big-time players do. I thought Dexter defended it well and that’s the reason he’s the No. 1 player in the draft. We did a good job on him all night and right there he just stepped up and made a big-time shot. That’s what big-time players do.”

With 5:44 left in the game, it looked like the Cowboys were going to run away with this road victory, taking a 59-52 lead. The Shockers once again fought back with an 8-0 run to take a 60-59 lead with three minutes left in the game. 

Brown said that being able to play a complete game has been a focus for him with the team. 

“I’ve just got to get them to put 40 minutes together,” Brown said. “We haven’t had two great halves in the first three games. In this game we don’t play well the first, we play well in the second half. You’re not going to beat good teams like that. You have to put together 40 minutes to win games especially in our conference.”

With a minute left in the game, Bryce Williams sank a pair of free throws, giving the Cowboys a 64-62 lead. Morris Udeze was fouled on the following possession and headed to the free throw. Udeze had struggled previously from the line in his career, entering the game shooting 48% on free throws. 

Udeze was able to sink both free throws from the line, knotting the game up with 34 seconds to play. 

“(Morris) practices that every day, he’s always working on his shooting, he’s always getting up free throws,” Brown said. “I’m not shocked that he made those two big free throws. We’ve just got to get a stop right there at the end.”

Ultimately, Cunningham proved too much for the Shockers sinking his three-pointer to give the Cowboys a late lead. 

For much of the game, Dexter Dennis was guarding Cunningham and found ways to limit the freshmen’s effectiveness. Prior to the game-winner, Cunningham only had one shot attempt in the second half. 

“(Dexter)’s one of the best defenders in the country,” Brown said. “He’s going up against a guy that’s the No. 1 pick in the Draft and held that guy to 10 points, that means a lot. Right there at the end, the kid made a tough shot, he defended it well, he closed out. The kid made a tough shot. Big-time players do that.”

Against Missouri on Dec. 6, Dennis took on the role of defending point guard Xavier Pinson, who came into the game averaging over 20 points a game. Dennis found a way to limit Pinson, holding him to three points on 1-13 shooting. 

As someone that goes up against Dennis a lot in practice, sophomore Tyson Etienne said that it hasn’t been a surprise to see these performances by Dennis on defense. 

“Dexter’s a great defender,” Etienne said. “He guards me every day in practice when we’re not on the same team so I know what he’s capable of doing and what you saw on the floor tonight is something that happens every day around here. Cade Cunningham’s a great player but Dexter Dennis is a great player as well. I’m not surprised by the performance he had on the defensive end.”

Despite Cunningham’s late three-pointer attempt, WSU was able to get a look to tie the game with just under ten seconds to play. Dexter Dennis had to force up a three before the clock expired but senior guard Alterique Gilbert said that wasn’t the look they were hoping for.

“We just didn’t get the wide-open look,” Gilbert said. “They played it the right way and we’ll live with that. It’s a team loss and we’ll stay together.”

Next up, the Shockers will open up conference play as they travel to take on Tulsa on Tuesday. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPNU.