Cowboys' fight shows in season-ending loss to TCU
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Before Wednesday’s Big 12 Tournament game even began, the wear of Oklahoma State’s basketball season showed on the Cowboys’ players.
Freshman point guard Isaac Likekele had therapeutic tape up and down the front of his right knee. Freshman center Yor Anei had the same on the back of his left. A sleeve on Lindy Waters’ right calf joined the tape on his left knee. It surrounded Thomas Dziagwa’s right wrist.
Those physical ailments and however they affected the Cowboys didn’t show Wednesday. Instead, it was the fight and effort that defined this season that took center stage, even in a 73-70 loss to TCU that ended Mike Boynton’s second season at the helm.
“In a lot of ways this was a 40-minute microcosm of what we've been, who we've been,” Boynton said.
The Cowboys (12-20) rallied from a 21-point second-half deficit, taking their first lead after scoring 16 straight points to go ahead 70-68 with 26.1 seconds left. Waters provided the go-ahead free throws, finishing with 17 points, seven assists and four steals.
But Desmond Bane gave the lead back with a corner 3-pointer, and Waters’ attempt at a go-ahead jumper bounced high off the rim, burning needed seconds, and into the arms of TCU point guard Alex Robinson, who made a pair of free throws to seal the victory and send the Horned Frogs (20-12) to a quarterfinal matchup with top-seed Kansas State and possibly the NCAA Tournament.
“I thought that I got a good shot,” Waters said. “I got to where I wanted to and left a little bit of time off the clock but just missed it.”
Waters entered the season as one of only three returners and ended the year as one of the Cowboys’ seven scholarship players, the result of a January that saw one player leave the program and three others dismissed from it.
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OSU lost its first seven Big 12 games after the dismissals, a victory against the Horned Frogs snapping a program-record conference skid. But that win preceded a 39-point defeat at Kansas State to start a run of four straight games against the league’s top four teams.
Despite many reasons at that point to give up on the season, the Cowboys did not. They lost to Texas Tech and Kansas by a combined nine points before beating Baylor, then ended the regular season by beating West Virginia to avoid last in the Big 12.
OSU arrived in Kansas City believing it had the chance to win the four games in four days necessary to win the tournament and seemed to have the same mindset even after falling down 53-32 with 16:29 to play Wednesday.
“I'm not sure I’ve ever been more proud of a team,” Boynton said.