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Five Thoughts on Oklahoma State’s 91-86 Loss in the Big 12 Championship Game

The Pokes come up short in KC.



[Photo via Denny Medley/Big 12 Conference]


The Cowboys’ Cinderella Big 12 Tournament story didn’t have a happy ending, but now the Pokes will have a chance to regroup and start again next week.

Oklahoma State lost to Texas 91-86 on Saturday night in the Big 12 Tournament’s championship game. Here are five thoughts from it.

1. Tired Legs

What a sad way to end such an epic run for the Cowboys.

From jump street, it was fairly obvious who the fresher team was with OSU playing an emotionally charged tight game with Baylor on Friday night and Texas having the night off because Kansas had to cancel.

It isn’t Texas’ fault. The Longhorns played who was in front of them, but what was in front of them was a tournament 6 seed, a tournament 5 seed, then a Big 12 Championship trophy. As Mike Gundy would say, “That’s just the world we live in.”

If it wasn’t blatantly obvious that Texas was fresher, some stats that point that out was that OSU settled for nine 3-point attempts in the first half despite not making one. Texas also slaughtered the Pokes on the offensive glass, as UT had 14 offensive rebounds and 17 second-chance points.

The Cowboys were also in foul trouble from early in the game. Avery Anderson and Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe fouled out, Rondel Walker had four fouls and Isaac Likekele and Cade Cunningham had three.

Another giveaway of OSU’s dead legs was the fact that OSU just couldn’t reel Texas in. OSU’s roaring second-half run from the past two weeks never came.

In the final 10 minutes, OSU’s biggest run was a 6-0 spree on back-to-back 3-pointers. Even that just cut Texas’ lead to six. The ‘Horns always had an answer, and the Cowboys just couldn’t bottle that momentum up like they have in recent weeks.

2. But They Wouldn’t Quit

This game should’ve been over with about 6:30 to play, but the Cowboys made Texas work until the final horn.

With 6:30 left, UT was up 71-59. OSU then spurted out an 8-2 run capped off with the back-to-back 3s from Cunningham and Walker.

Texas pushed the lead back to 10 with 2:53 to play. Then the Cowboys put up four straight points and forced Texas to make free throws from there on out.

The Longhorns would hit a pair of foul shots, then Cunningham would hit a 3 and apply some more pressure. Texas just always answered with free throw makes.

Baylor is such a good team this year because the Bears are hard to get away from, and it looks like the Cowboys have picked up that trait somewhere in the past few weeks.

“It’s not an option,” OSU coach Mike Boynton said. “It’s not an option. You don’t get to quit, like, nope, can’t happen. Coach Sutton’s program, Mr. Iba’s program, no, not an option. I’m not surprised because we don’t ever talk about that. The expectation is, if you’re going to put on a uniform that says Oklahoma State Basketball, you’re gonna play as hard as you can.”

3. Cunningham Still a Monster

Cunningham got in foul trouble in the first half and had just four points.

In the second, the projected No. 1 NBA Draft pick put up 25 points to finish with 29. Cunningham was the catalyst as to why Texas couldn’t get away from the Pokes.

In the final 5:21, Cunningham scored 15 points and made a trio of 3s. Even this went in:

He just wouldn’t be denied, and he wouldn’t quit.

When you think of how highly touted Cunningham is, there could be room for arrogance, but down nine with a minute to play, he was taking on the entire state of Texas.

4. Big 12 Refs ?‍♂️

The Big 12 has been the most exciting conference in America this season despite games like Saturday’s where 40 (!!) fouls were called in 40 minutes.

This game saw 53 free throws attempted. Both teams were in the bonus in the second half with nine minutes to play.

The crew was consistent at least. I don’t think the calls overly favored one team or the other, but man, 40 fouls in 40 minutes is not a fun basketball game.

5. The Show Goes On

The Cowboys will hear their name called on Selection Sunday for the first time since Jawun Evans was running pick-and-rolls on Eddie Sutton Court.

What seed will OSU be? Who knows. ESPN’s Joe Lundari still projects the Pokes as a No. 2 seed, but he doesn’t pick the bracket. The algorithm-based rankings still aren’t big Cowboys’ fans, as OSU was No. 26 in the NET entering Saturday, and the Pokes are No. 31 in KenPom as of writing.

It feels like the Pokes should be a 2 or 3 seed, but maybe the committee takes those rankings deeper into account and puts the Pokes as a 4.

Wherever the Cowboys end up, OSU has shown it can get hot winning six games against ranked opponents since Feb. 22.

The OSU fanbase finally has a basketball team that is nationally relevant again, and it has come at an exciting time.

“I am excited about what we can do after getting a few days of rest, to be perfectly honest,” Boynton said. “Getting our guys off their feet and prepare for something new, something different. It’s the most exciting thing that many of these guys will ever go through as players, and I’m excited that our program is back in a place where it’s relevant. There’ll be a little bit of talk about Oklahoma State basketball for the next few weeks.”

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