Cowboys leave NCAA tourney bid hanging in the balance with loss to No. 7 Texas | Oklahoma

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – It was that type of terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day for the Oklahoma State men’s basketball team.

The type of day that the Cowboys had two months ago against Texas. The type of day that featured their second-worst offensive output of the season. The type of day the Pokes couldn’t afford to have with their NCAA Tournament hopes hanging in the balance.

The type of day that led to a 61-47 loss to the No. 7 Longhorns on Thursday night at the T-Mobile Center in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament.

“We didn’t play very well, and that goes without saying,” Cowboys coach Mike Boynton said. “Obviously, we played poorly on a day where we really needed to play much better.”

Entering the matchup, the Cowboys (18-15) knew they were going to have to turn the tide on their prior woes against the Longhorns (24-8). The first meeting between the two, a 56-46 loss for OSU in Stillwater on Jan. 7, had the Pokes at their best on one end of the floor and their worst on the other.

So did this time around.

Less than 24 hours after putting on a defensive clinic in their quarterfinal win over Oklahoma, the Cowboys doubled down and held the Longhorns to their lowest scoring total since that initial matchup more than two months ago. Texas’ clip of 37.3 percent from the field was its worst since then, too.

But the Cowboys shot a season-worst 26.9 percent (14 of 52) from the field and committed a season-worst 20 turnovers.

“They are one of the teams that match up with us athletically, and they were able to get up in us and force us to make careless turnovers,” said OSU senior guard John-Michael Wright, who had 7 points, three rebounds and two assists. “That’s what got us out of our offense in both matchups against us, so credit to their defense.”

It was the style of ugly, slowed-paced basketball that the Cowboys needed to have a chance to upend the Longhorns.

With senior guards Avery Anderson III (wrist) and Chris Harris Jr. (leg) sidelined – and with the countless other bumps and bruises that come with playing over two months of basketball in the country’s toughest conference – OSU was never going to go blow-for-blow with Texas.

The Pokes had their chances. Two, in particular, stand out. And they were both squandered.

The Cowboys had a nine-minute stretch in the first half where they didn’t make a field goal. Still, once junior guard Bryce Thompson hit a floater to snap that emblematic skid, Texas’ lead was only 19-15 with 6:58 until the break.

Coming out of the intermission, staring down the barrel of a 35-26 deficit, it took OSU more than six minutes to score its first points of the second half. Senior forward Kalib Boone spun to his left to put one off the glass and in with 13:54 left to play.

“Give credit to Texas. They obviously were the aggressors from the beginning. I think they took great advantage of having the extra day of rest,” Boynton said. “They pressured us quite a bit and forced us into the turnovers that we had kind of gotten away from the last few games, and we compounded it by not making shots when we were actually open.”

Having a performance like that on a stage of this magnitude leaves the Cowboys’ NCAA Tournament hopes out of their control. They had started to remove themselves from the bubble and closer to the field with wins at Texas Tech in the regular-season finale and the aforementioned win over the rival Sooners.

They hadn’t burst that bubble, though. That’s the parallel of once winning seven of eight before being handed five-straight losses. Their return to downtown Kansas City after an unwarranted one-year postseason ban was crucial.

There’s no telling what lies ahead for the Cowboys. They, along with every coach who’s said anything about them this season, believe they belong in the big dance. Kansas’ Bill Self has said it multiple times. Baylor’s Scott Drew has. Texas’ Rodney Terry did, too.

But it isn’t up to any of them.

The Cowboys’ fate is in the hands of the Selection Committee, and the Cowboys believe their resume is good enough to land the job.

“With all due respect, because there’s really good basketball around the country, but to get eight wins in this conference – three on the road, three sweeps, to play the schedule we played overall – is a testament to the character of these guys,” Boynton said. “I think we certainly deserve inclusion in the event.”

“We’ll be ready for anything if we get the bid to go to March Madness, and we’ll try to make it as exciting as possible,” Wright said. “As a team, I feel like we’ve done enough, and I hope the committee gives us grace.”

Follow News Press sports reporter Jon Walker on Twitter @ByJonWalker for updates on Oklahoma State athletics, Stillwater High sports and more.

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