Bedlam Comeback Comes Up Short

The road to the Big 12 regular season title got a whole lot tougher for the preseason favorite Oklahoma State Cowboys on Monday night. The eighth-ranked Cowboys fell behind early and never recovered in suffering a 88-76 loss to No. 23 Oklahoma on Monday night at Lloyd Noble Center. It was OSU's 10th consecutive loss to the Sooners in Norman.

The Cowboys are now 16-4 overall and 4-3 in Big 12 play after suffering their third conference road loss in four games away from Gallagher-Iba Arena. They now trail Kansas (6-0), Oklahoma (6-2) and Texas (5-2) in the Big 12 standings.

OSU trailed by as many as 17 points with just under 14 minutes to play in the second half but the Cowboys kept fighting. Marcus Smart led the Cowboys on a 14-4 run over the next four minutes to close the OU lead to 64-57, and the sophomore point guard had a chance to make it a four-point game but his three-point attempt was long.

The Sooners then took control, outscoring the Cowboys 11-5 to take what appeared to be a commanding 75-62 lead. But the Cowboys still wouldn't go away, pulling within 76-70 with 3:42 remaining on Le'Bryan Nash's basket in the paint. Just 12 seconds later, however, Nash picked up his fifth foul and OU's Jordan Woodard hit a free throw and the Sooners freshman point guard followed it up on the next possession with a three-pointer that moved the lead back to 80-70.

"We just didn't play very well," Cowboys head coach Travis Ford said. "We just didn't defend for some reason. We came in here the number one defensive team in the league and for some reason we don't defend.

"We got into some serious foul trouble. They shoot 42 free throws, (and) that's tough to overcome. We just didn't play very well. It's disappointing," added Ford, who is now 6-7 against the Sooners and 0-6 in Norman.

Smart led the Cowboys with 22 points despite only playing 25 minutes (just six minutes in the first half after picking up two fouls), and he was 6-of-18 from the field. Phil Forte was 6-for-6 from beyond the three-point line and finished with 20 points. Markel Brown contributed 18 points but he also struggled shooting the ball (7 of 17 from the field).

Nash, coming off a career-best 29 points in Saturday's win over West Virginia, had just eight points and three rebounds before fouling out after playing only 17 minutes. Kamari Murphy (four points and nine rebounds) and Stevie Clark (two points in just 11 minutes of play) also fouled out.

OSU had no answer for Woodard, who scored a team-best 18 points, or big man Ryan Spangler, who added 15 points and a career-best 17 rebounds. Tyler Neal came off the bench to score a season-best 15 points, including making all three of his three-point attempts, and guard Buddy Hield added 11 points.

"Plain and simple, we didn't play well. You've got to give Oklahoma credit," Ford said. "It was one of those games where shots didn't fall for us, and we had some decent looks. We obviously competed on the glass but we let one guy get 17 rebounds.

"The second half was hard to make a complete run back. We played much better the second half but it's hard to really make a run back when the team is shooting free throws every minute. Every time we turned around they were shooting free throws. That makes it difficult to make a run back. That had a lot to do with it."

The Cowboys will look to get back in the win column when they host Baylor at 1 p.m. Saturday at Gallagher-Iba Arena.

"We're not playing as well as we're capable of playing right now," Ford added. "We have to understand how difficult this league is. You can't just rely on talent, you can't rely on turning it off and on because that's not going to work."

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