OSU will enter the Big 12 Tournament as the eighth seed following Saturday's loss, and the Cowboys will face Texas Tech in a first-round game at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. Since they finish as one of the four teams at the bottom of the league standings, the Cowboys will be forced to win four games in four days to claim the Big 12 postseason title.
But it didn't have to be that way.
The Cowboys led 70-68 when Forte, who entered the game making 89 percent of his free throws this season, was fouled with five seconds remaining in the second half. He calmly sank the first foul shot but he missed the second and instead of fouling the Cyclones to prevent a chance at a game-tying three-pointer, the Cowboys allowed Naz Long to get off a 25-foot attempt. As everyone knows now, Long drained the shot to tie the game 71-71, sending it into overtime, and Iowa State outscored OSU 14-10 in the extra period.
For those who remember, it was Long's three-pointer with 1.4 seconds left in the second overtime which tied the game against the Cowboys on Feb. 4 in Stillwater, and Iowa State then won 98-97 in triple overtime.
"We want to foul (Long) but didn't get to him," Cowboys head coach Travis Ford said after the game. "We had our chances. We put ourselves in a position to win but we didn't close it out. They made the big shot (at the end) when we should have fouled."
But it should have never gotten to that point.
The Cowboys led 32-25 at half-time and used a 13-4 run to open the second half to take a 16-point lead over the Cyclones. Senior Markel Brown hit a trey to open the scoring and then Smart followed with back-to-back treys. Smart added another basket and then fed Le'Bryan Nash on a fast break for a dunk to make it 45-29 with 16:20 on the clock.
But the Cyclones outscored the Cowboys 42-26 the rest of the way – the final three coming on Long's improbable three at the buzzer – to send it into overtime.
"They went on a 16-2 run or something like that in the second half. We quit running our offense and our defense in transition hurt us. We allowed them back in the game too quick, and then they just made plays down the stretch," Ford said.
Smart, the sophomore point guard who will enter the NBA Draft following the season, was outstanding in his final regular season game for the Cowboys. Before fouling out with 8.9 seconds remaining in regulation, Smart scored a game-high 27 points while contributing 5 assists, 4 steals and 3 rebounds.
Brown, the senior from Alexandria, La., who also was playing his last regular season, recorded the sixth double-double of his career, finishing with 26 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks. Forte was the only other Cowboy to score in double figures with 13 points.
The Cowboys now begin preparing for postseason play, beginning with Wednesday night's game against Texas Tech. OSU lost to Tech 65-61 in Lubbock on Feb. 8, but the Cowboys routed the Red Raiders 84-62 in Stillwater on Feb. 22.
"That's a tough loss but we've got to get over it quickly. We don't have time to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves, get back on the court, start practicing and get ready for the postseason," Ford said.
"We need to learn from (Saturday's loss) but we need to move on. Postseason starts now, so we need to learn from it ... we did a lot of really good things in this game, we just need to carry some of those over and eliminate some of the bad possessions on offense.
"We had our chances in overtime. We had more than our chances. We just didn't come up with a couple of rebounds, they made some shots and they made their free throws, and we had a couple of bad possessions offensively late. We had cour chances."