Can The Cowboys Make The Plays Late?

Winning in the NCAA tournament is not easy. Just ask Travis Ford, who has won only once in leading his teams to four NCAA appearances (three with Oklahoma State and once with Eastern Kentucky). Teams that can make the crucial plays late in the game are those that survive and advance, but the Cowboys have struggled in those situations this season.

Oklahoma State, the ninth seed in the West Region, enters the NCAA tourney with a 21-12 record. The Cowboys will face eighth-seeded Gonzaga, 28-6, in their first game at approximately 3:40 p.m. Friday (Central Daylight Time).

The Cowboys have faced their share of adversity throughout the 2013-14 season, becoming the first team to lose seven consecutive games and still receive an at-large berth in the NCAA tourney (according to television reports), playing three games (all losses) without Marcus Smart after his suspension for pushing a Texas Tech fan in the final seconds of OSU's loss on Feb. 8, and suffering their share of heart-breaking losses over the last two months.

Ford's team has lost 12 games, and 10 of those have come down to the final possession or two of the game. In seven of those 12 losses, the Cowboys have actually led in the last five minutes of the game or in overtime only to walk off the court watching their opponent celebrate the victory.

Senior Markel Brown believes the Cowboys experience in close games will be a benefit if it comes down to the final possession against Gonzaga.

"We've lost some and we've won some, so this team has the experience, especially late in the game," said Brown, who is averaging 17.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists. "So if we happen to get in that situation in this tournament we should be prepared for what's going to happen. We know how hard it is to win those games. We've lost games at the end, we've won some at the end, so we should be prepared."

The Cowboys have won five of their last seven games since Marcus Smart's return from the three-game suspension, but they could have easily won each of those games. They lost in overtime to both Kansas in the Big 12 tournament and Iowa State in the final regular season game.

They also lost to Baylor 70-64 in overtime on Feb. 17, prior to Smart's return. Thus, the Cowboys' last three losses have been in overtime. They are 0-4 in overtime games this season, and have lost five consecutive games (dating back to a 68-67 double overtime loss to Kansas on Feb. 20, 2013) that have gone into extra periods.

But Brown says no one will remember those close losses if the Cowboys take care of business the next several weeks.

"You're remembered by what you do in this tournament. For this team, we just want to go out there and play as hard as we can for as long as we can, and hopefully end up in the Final Four," he said.

Here is a breakdown of all 12 of the Cowboys' losses this season (bold indicates a game in which OSU led in the last five minutes of regulation or in overtime):

Kansas, lost 77-70 in overtime (March 13, Big 12 tourney)
OSU led 67-65 with 1:30 left (Markel Brown 3-pointer)
OSU led 70-68 with 4:00 left in overtime (Phil Forte 3-pointer)

@ Iowa State, lost 85-81 in overtime (March 8)
OSU led 66-63 with 2:30 left (Brown jumper)
OSU led 70-66 with 16 seconds left (Marcus Smart made 1 of 2 free throws)
OSU led 79-78 with 35 seconds left in overtime (Brown made 1 of 2 FTs)

@ Baylor, lost 70-64 in overtime (Feb. 17)
OSU led 55-54 with 3:20 left (Forte 3-pointer)
The Cowboys never led in overtime

Oklahoma, lost 79-74 (Feb. 15)
OSU led 65-60 with 3:49 left (Brown jumper)
OSU led 68-65 with 2:02 left (Kamari Murphy made 1 of 2 FTs)

@ Texas, lost 87-68 (Feb. 11)

@ Texas Tech, lost 65-61 (Feb. 9)
OSU led 57-54 with 4:34 left (Smart 3-pointer)

Iowa State, lost 98-97 in three overtimes (Feb. 4)
OSU led 75-74 with 1:04 left in regulation (Brown made 2 FTs)
OSU never led in the first overtime before tying the game
OSU led 89-86 in the second overtime before Naz Long's game-tying 3 with five seconds left
OSU led 95-93 with 1:29 left in the third overtime (Le'Bryan Nash's layup)

Baylor, lost 76-70 (Feb. 1)
OSU led 64-63 with 4:16 left (Smart made 2 FTs)

@ Oklahoma, lost 88-76 (Jan. 27)
OSU did not lead in the second half after trailing 46-38 at halftime

@ Kansas, lost 80-78 (Jan. 18)
OSU pulled within 79-78 on Forte's 3 with six seconds remaining after trailing by 19 in the first half.

@ Kansas State, lost 74-71 (Jan. 4)
OSU led 60-57 with 5:44 left (Brown made 1 of 2 FTs)

Memphis, L 73-68 (Dec. 1)
OSU led 52-50 with 10:22 left (Nash dunk)

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