By Jason Elmquist
Stillwater News Press
STILLWATER, Okla. —
It started with a grind-it-out loss at Kansas four weeks ago, and has led to one of the worst stretches in Oklahoma State men’s basketball history.
The promising season that was supposed to be continues to slip away from the Cowboys with their sixth straight loss — and seventh in eight games dating back to the KU loss — when a last-second, potential game-tying 3-point by senior Markel Brown didn’t even draw iron against Bedlam rival Oklahoma in a 77-74 loss.
The last time Oklahoma State lost six in a row was the final season of the three-year stint by Sean Sutton as the Cowboy head man in 2007-08. That squad still managed to finish 7-8 in Big 12 Conference play, while the current Cowboy squad slipped to 4-8 in league action and 16-9 overall — a long way from when they were ranked No. 8 in the country before starting this slide with an 88-76 loss at Norman.
“We’ve got to dig in. We’ve got to bounce back. They’re down. This is as down of a locker room that I’ve seen,” Cowboy coach Travis Ford said. “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.”
Finishing has been Oklahoma State’s problem all year. Seven of Oklahoma State’s nine losses have been by two possessions or fewer — the lone blowouts being to OU and Tuesday’s 87-68 loss at Texas in OSU’s first game without Marcus Smart.
“Obviously we’ve been losing close games lately, and it’s frustrating. We just have to get over that hump,” sophomore Phil Forte said. “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 its a rebound or a loose ball, that’s what we have to get right now. That’s where we are falling short.”
Saturday it came down to free throws for Oklahoma State. The Cowboys, ranked 96th in the country in free throw percentage at 71.9 percent, made just 12 of 22 (54.5 percent), including a rare 1 for 4 from Forte — the poorest percentage this season for the 92.5 percent free-throw shooter.
Outside of his surprising struggles at the free throw line, Forte came up big in his second start in the absence of his high school teammate. The sophomore sharp shooter scored 16 points on a 6 of 12 shooting — including 3 of 6 from 3-point range.
Leading the Cowboys was senior guard Markel Brown, who scored a game-high 26 points. After knocking down a 3-pointer to make it a two-point game with 24 seconds remaining, Brown got another shot at a running 3-pointer to tie it at the buzzer, but it was well off the mark.