Isaac Likekele scored a career-high 26 points, and coach Mike Boynton Jr. had a successful homecoming as the Oklahoma State Cowboys defeated the Syracuse Orange 86-72 in the semifinals of the NIT Tip-Off in Brooklyn, New York.
Likekele, a sophomore point guard, added eight assists, five rebounds and five steals. He made 8 of 11 attempts from the floor, including his only 3-point attempt, and 9 of 10 free throws.
The Cowboys also got 19 points and eight rebounds from Yor Anei and 16 points from Thomas Dziagwa.
Boynton, who grew up in Brooklyn, has directed the Cowboys to a 6-0 record, their best start in five years. The Cowboys will play the Ole Miss Rebels on Friday for the NIT Tip-Off title.
Syracuse forward Elijah Hughes, the only returning scorer from last season’s 20-win, NCAA Tournament team, led the Orange with a game-high 28 points. Freshman point guard Joe Girard III added 12 points and a game-high nine assists.
Syracuse (4-2) had its four-game win streak snapped, and the Orange fell to 1-4 at the Barclays Center, site of the 2018 ACC Tournament.
Oklahoma State is now 4-2 in its series against Syracuse, although this was their first meeting since 2006.
The Cowboys got off to an 11-0 start in a first-half full of runs. Syracuse answered with a 10-0 stretch to make it 11-10, and that Orange hot streak morphed into a 21-3 run and a 21-14 lead.
But, just like that, the Cowboys turned it on again, posting a 29-10 run to take a 43-31 lead into the break.
The big difference in the first half was Oklahoma State’s shooting from the floor (50 percent) compared to Syracuse (28 percent). Likekele led all scorers at the half with 12 points, and Hughes had 11.
The Cowboys led by as many as 21 points on two occasions in the second half, and Syracuse never seriously threatened in those final 20 minutes.
—Field Level Media