The Cowboys have now lost six games – beginning with a 88-76 Bedlam loss to the Sooners on Jan. 27 – over the span of 21 days. Head coach Travis Ford’s team saw its record fall to 16-9 overall and 4-8 in Big 12 play, while Oklahoma improves to 19-7 and 8-5.
The 2007-08 version of the Cowboys went on a six-game losing streak before winning at Colorado. Head coach Sean Sutton’s team finished 17-16, including a first-round loss at Southern Illinois in the National Invitation Tournament, and Sutton was fired following the season.
Ford’s squad appeared to be in good shape to end its losing streak even though the Cowboys were playing without leading scorer and team leader Marcus Smart, who is midway through serving a three-game suspension for pushing a Texas Tech fan in a game at Lubbock on Feb. 7.
OSU senior Markel Brown scored on three consecutive possessions to give his team a 67-62 lead with 3:20 remaining in the second half. But the Sooners, behind the three-point shooting of sophomore Buddy Hield and freshman Frank Booker, who combined for 37 points while making nine treys in their first ever games inside Gallagher-Iba Arena, went on an 9-1 run to regain the lead with a minute to play. OU clinched the win by making all six of its foul shots in the game’s final 30 seconds.
Phil Forte’s three from the corner pulled the Cowboys within 75-74. But OU’s Je’lon Hornbeak’s made it a three-point game again by calmly sinking two free throws. Brown took the ball the length of the court in 4.4 seconds but his three-pointer at the buzzer was no good, sending the Cowboys to their sixth loss in a row.
“Coach (Ford) wanted us to rush the ball up the court. They kind of double-teamed me, I lost track of time and fired up a shot, praying it would go in. I thought I took the right shot, it just didn't fall,” said Brown, who scored a game-high 26 points on 8-of-16 shooting from the field, including 3-of-6 from behind the three-point line, while pulling down nine rebounds.
However, Brown and the Cowboys uncharacteristically struggled from the foul line. He was just 7 of 10 from the charity stripe, and the Cowboys made on 12 of 22 from the foul line for the game.
"We usually make our free throws. It's something we usually take a lot of pride in. I think it help cost us the game,” said Forte, a 92.5 percent free-throw shooter on the season who had made 22 of 23 from the line in conference games. However, the sophomore guard made just one of four against the Sooners on Saturday.
"Obviously we've been losing close games lately, and it's frustrating. We just have to get over that hump. Last year, we were on the other side of a lot of these games. We're there at the end of these games, we just have to close them out. We just have to make more plays. It comes down to a play or two —whether it’s a rebound or a loose ball, that's what we have to get right now. That's where we are falling short,” added Forte.
Le’Bryan Nash recorded the fifth double-double of his career, finishing with 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Forte contributed 16 points. Kamari Murphy added seven points and 13 rebounds.
But it wasn’t enough as the Cowboys’ struggles continue.
"We've got to dig in. We've got to bounce back,” Ford said. “They're down. This is as down of a locker room that I've seen. We just need to keep our head up and understand that there is a lot of basketball left to be played.
“This effort was better, but we've got to finish the game out a little bit better. It doesn't get any easier going out on the road. We've just got to keep our heads up, spirit up, and continue to motivate them and keep their heads up, as we've been doing.”
The Cowboys return to action Monday night when they travel to Waco, Texas to face Baylor in a nationally televised (ESPN) Big Monday game. The Bears defeated the Cowboys 76-70 on Feb. 1 in Stillwater.
"We still have a lot of games. We have to pick up a couple (of wins) and make a run in the Big 12 Tournament. We still have plenty of time,” Brown said. “Going on the road at Baylor will be a winnable game. We have to go out there and play with pride, play with heart and give it all we have. We have time to make a run."