STILLWATER – Even the simplest tasks became difficult as the clock continued to tick away.
With 2:35 left, Curtis Jones jogged to the bench as Yor Anei was emerging from the scorer’s table. Every time an Oklahoma State basketball player checks into a contest, he hands his substitute a towel. When Anei went to make the handoff, the towel fell to the ground, much like a baton between relay runners on a track. Jones bent over and grabbed it before trotting to the bench, with OSU coach Mike Boynton patting him on the way past.
Oklahoma rallied from a 19-point, first-half deficit to defeat the Cowboys, 70-61, on Wednesday night in Gallagher-Iba Arena. The Sooners swept Bedlam for the first time since the 2015-16 season and ended an 11-game Big 12 road losing record. The Cowboys dropped their third straight contest after rattling off consecutive conference victories.
For the first 8:45, not much could go wrong for OSU. Lindy Waters, a Norman native, made every shot he attempted, including a stepback 3-pointer to give the Cowboys (8-11 overall, 2-5 Big 12) a 28-9 advantage. The junior captain hit three triples along with an and-one bucket during the scorching start.
“We were just being the aggressors,” Waters said, “and it wasn’t just me. Cam (McGriff) was hitting shots. As a team, collectively, we were very aggressive the first 10, 12 minutes.”
The next 31:35 was about OU’s resiliency and stamina. Throughout the remainder of the contest, OU went on two 10-0 runs and an 11-0 run. One of those 10-0 runs ended the game, as the Cowboys held a 61-60 lead before going scoreless the final 5:35.
McGriff played every second of the loss, tallying 13 points on 4-of-9 shooting. He didn’t make a shot in the second half, missing both attempts that came after the final media timeout.
Waters’ 20 points, which were a career-high, led all scorers. Yet he was held scoreless the remainder of the first half after his outburst and made only two shots in the second half before fouling out late.
Only seven Cowboys played, though but all but Duncan Demuth played at least 25 minutes. The captains played at least 35 minutes, but Waters said one word when asked whether fatigue was an issue.
OSU coach Mike Boynton said he was proud of McGriff playing every minute, though his team’s effort in the face of adversity also encouraged him.
“All these guys I’m really proud of,” Boynton said. “The way they’re handling this because everybody goes through things, everybody deals with stuff. The ability to learn and grow from it is how you deal with it. These guys are learning how to deal with some adversity right now, which will be good for ‘em in the long run.”
After shooting 9-of-16 from 3 in the first half, the Cowboys made only three triples in the second half. The Sooners, however, flourished in the second frame. Freshman guard Jamal Bieniemy led OU (14-5, 3-4) with 17 points while three others managed double-figure scoring marks. It shot 63.6 percent in the second half while outscoring the Cowboys by 15.
With a depleted roster that is relying on walk-ons simply to have a scout team to practice against, the margin for error is minuscule to win conference games. Every little error is compounded and hurts in the long run.
Jones mentioned there were possessions he and his teammates could have moved better off the ball and been more focused. Even with the flaws, he believes OSU is on the cusp of handling the adversity, something it must figure out quickly.
“I don’t think we’re far off,” Jones said. “I think we’re right there. Especially today, it came down to just a couple possessions. Just continue to believe and continue to trust each other, and we’ll be fine.”