By Jason Elmquist
STILLWATER, Okla. —
There was no season sweep of Kansas, and the road to a Big 12 Conference championship will be uphill from here following Oklahoma State’s 68-67 double overtime loss to the Jayhawks.
In front of a rowdy sold out crowd in Gallagher-Iba Arena the Cowboys and Kansas clashed in an epic battle that included 23 lead changes, 16 ties and no team led by more than five points. But in the end, OSU couldn’t prevent KU from scoring its one and only field goal in the extra frames — a seven-foot jump shot by Naadir Tharpe with 16 seconds left in the second overtime for the game-winner.
“It was a very hard-fought game and just give Kansas credit,” OSU coach Travis Ford said. “But I was proud of our kids. I thought they played really, really hard. ... I thought you saw two good teams playing. We’ve got a lot of respect for Kansas, but it’s close.”
It was the second straight overtime game for Oklahoma State — third straight in Gallagher-Iba Arena, and fourth overtime game the Cowboys have been a part of this season, but the first overtime loss. In the second overtime, the Cowboys were without several key cogs in the lineup with forward Michael Cobbins fouling out with 3:15 remaining in the period and freshman point guard Marcus Smart following him to the bench less than a minute later.
“(It hurt us more) offensively because Marcus can create a little bit and our team is so used to having the ball in his hands,” Ford said. “It was definitely (a factor) offensively, because Michael can also score some points, get some nice putbacks at the rim and things like that.”
Smart couldn’t quite put together the type of game fans have become accustomed to seeing from the freshman phenom from Flower Mound, Texas. Smart scored 16 points, but was just 2 for 14 from the field — getting most of his points at the free throw line, going 11 for 14 — and had just one assist with two steals and two turnovers.
And more importantly, the go-to player in the clutch was not on the floor for OSU on the final play to potentially clinch the win.
“It was very difficult. I felt like I let my teammates down,” Smart said of fouling out. “I wish I was out there to savor that moment with them, help them out, and contribute in the way that I usually do, but unfortunately it didn’t work out that way this time.”
Instead it was Markel Brown getting the Pokes going on offense and defense. Brown scored a game-high 20 points — thanks to a 7-for-15 performance from the field — and a game-high 4 assists. But possibly his biggest contribution came on defense, as he shut down KU freshman Ben McLemore — a projected top five NBA draft pick — to 7 points on 3 of 12 shooting.
“It was a major factor in the scouting report, and he’s one of the main guys we focused on. He’s a top-five prospect. He’s a very good ball player. I went out there and did it with the help of my teammates,” Brown said. “Brian Williams came off the bench and helped me out. Sometimes I got screened, and other guys like (Le’Bryan Nash) stepped up and helped me. It was a team effort out there.”
With OSU playing so many extra minutes the past two games, Ford said the next few days will be a time to recuperate as the Cowboys’ next daunting task is the long trip to Morgantown, W. Va., to face the West Virginia Mountaineers on Saturday.
“The last couple of games we’ve played a lot of minutes, we’ve had guys play a lot of minutes and we need to get them off their feet and rest their minds and rest their bodies as much as we can before a long trip on Saturday,” Ford said.