Yes, Oklahoma State lost a 68-67 heartbreaker to a pissed off Kansas team that wanted payback because of a certain Cowboy freshman’s backflip in Lawrence. Yes, it would have been OK to give the Jayhawks their due credit and move on.
But after 50 minutes of fighting for an eighth-straight Big 12 win, Brown had something to say. And it wasn’t even for a question directed to him.
It went something like: How does it feel coming up so short in a game that might have shifted Big 12 supremacy from Lawrence to Stillwater?
“Is it too late?” Brown cut in after Marcus Smart’s answer. “We’re still going to go into practice and fight for the number-one spot. It’s not too late.”
And therein lies the silver lining to a difficult loss. Brown’s sentiment is one now shared in the DNA of this Cowboy basketball team. It’s a combination of raw youth, toughness, skill and confidence.
One season ago, it would be crazy to think about OSU challenging KU for conference supremacy. Today, that moment has certainly arrived.
“We have a lot of respect for Kansas, a lot. But I think you’re right, it’s close,” said Travis Ford about the competition level between OSU and KU. “We knew it was going to be a great challenge.”
But it’s still a difficult pill to swallow. In the waning moments of the second overtime, the Cowboys were without two of their program staples: Marcus Smart and Michael Cobbins. Both fouled out early in the second overtime.
Don’t discount Cobbins’ impact because of his point total (8). His 14 rebounds and monster block to help force the first overtime were immeasurably important.
And Smart? Well, we’re running out of words to describe his brilliance in late game moments – despite his dismal overall shooting performance (2-14 FG, 1-6 3PT). His lone 3-pointer in the first overtime was just another example of his clutch gene taking over in the past few weeks.
So you can imagine why Brown was already in his street clothes, ready to call it a day. But make no mistake. This isn’t the kind of game you just simply forget and move on from. It’s something to motivate the Cowboys when they roll into Kansas City for the Big 12 Tournament next month.
“I can’t wait for it,” Smart said. “We’re going to be ready for it, just like we were tonight. We’ll go out there and play just as hard as we did. We definitely can’t wait for another shot at them.”
No. 17 Oklahoma State (19-4, 9-4): 67
No. 9 Kansas (22-4, 10-3): 68
In a nutshell:
A slow, ugly start for both teams in a jam-packed Gallagher-Iba Arena. The Cowboys didn’t record double-digits scoring until the 10:15 mark, with a Le’Bryan Nash layin. Ben McLemore and Marcus Smart were a combined 0-for-13 from the field. Smart earned 4 points at the free throw line, but McLemore went scoreless. Nash and Markel Brown led the Cowboys with 7 apiece. Jeff Withey led Kansas with 8. The score was knotted at 26 at the break.
It was more of the same to start the second. The Jayhawks earned the largest lead of the game, getting up five points within the first five minutes. We didn’t see the game’s first double-digit scorer until Elijah Johnson cashed in a lay-up, giving KU the 38-33 lead with 12:53 remaining. The Jayhawks and Cowboys exchanged leads all the way down the stretch. Smart made his first bucket at the 3:18 mark with a fadeaway jumper off the glass. After exchanging a pair of free throws, the Jayhawks went on a 4-point run (that’s a big one in this game). But that’s when Smart stepped up, hitting one free throw, then an incredibly clutch 3-pointer to tie it. Kansas threatened on its next offensive possession, but Michael Cobbins blocked its final FG attempt in regulation. With 28.7 seconds remaining, Smart led the OSU offense on one final possession. But his desperation jumper missed the mark. Tied at 57, we went to overtime.
It was a free throw fest, literally. KU didn’t make a single FG -- halfway through the OT period, there wasn’t a single attempt. Instead, there were eight fouls and a turnover. The Cowboys made just one – a key 3-pointer from Phil Forte to knot the game at 63 with 1:18 remaining. Still tied with the clock nearing zero, Smart took a 3/4 court heave to win it, but it came up short. We went to another overtime, tied up at 63.
It was more of the same in the second, with a flurry of foul calls, free throws and missed FG shots. Only this time, OSU was without Smart and Cobbins. Both fouled out. With 1:01 left, Jeff Withey hit two free throws to give KU the 66-65 lead. Brown responded with a jumper to give OSU the lead. But on the Jayhawks' next possession, Naadir Tharpe hit the KU's lone FG in either OT period, and it was all they needed. Brown missed the Cowboys' final shot, and it was over. One of the most dramatic loses in recent memory. OSU goes down 66-65. A classic in GIA.
By the numbers:
0: Made FGs by Ben McLemore and Marcus Smart in the first half / McLemore points in the first half.
1: Made FG by the Jayhawks in both overtimes – the game-winning shot.
3: Blocks by Michael Cobbins.
32.8: The Cowboys’ shooting percentage – the lowest all season.
37.8: The Cowboys’ free-throw shooting percentage in the overtime periods (3-8).
44: Points in the paint for the Jayhawks.
Late in the first half, Marcus Smart went down and slapped the floor in agony. It was a right ankle injury. But it didn’t take long for him to recover, as he started the second half.
“They said he was fine,” Ford said. “(It was) his ankle. But that’s been bothering him a little bit. It’s one of those things where you’ve got to get out there and keep it loose. It’s not bad. The trainer said he just tweaked it, as he has many times.”
Michael Cobbins was huge on Wednesday night. His 14 rebounds went along with 3 blocks – one of which helped force overtime.
"He played really well,” Ford said. “He played good defense, protected the rim for us, blocked shots, got rebounds and scored as well. I thought he really competed, Michael has played some really good basketball."
After an emotional loss, there isn’t much time to regroup. OSU heads east for a matchup with West Virginia on Saturday.
“The last couple games, we’ve played a lot of minutes,” Ford said. “We need to get them off their feet and rest their minds and their bodies as much as we can before we’ve got a road trip on Saturday.”
UP NEXT: West Virginia
The Cowboys travel to Morgantown to face the Mountaineers (13-13, 6-7) at 1:00 p.m. Saturday / TV: ESPN2 / RADIO: KSPI 93.7 FM