The Cowboys are now 12-4 overall and 2-2 in Big 12 play. KU improves to 14-2 and 3-0.
KU’s Kelly Oubre Jr. and Frank Mason III combined to shoot 23 free throws – making 16 – to lead the Jayhawks. The Jayhawks shot a very average 69.6 percent from the charity stripe, but made enough free throws (32) to remain one of two unbeaten teams in the Big 12.
“We’re not going to win very many games when we send the other team to the foul line 46 times on the road. Your backs are against the road the whole time,” Cowboys head coach Travis Ford said. “We just didn’t play very good on-the-ball defense at all. The ball screen defense wasn’t very good.
“We had opportunities in this game but we never capitalized, especially with some open shots that we needed. We’ve got to start getting a little more production on the road out of our bench. They outscored us 20-3 in bench play.”
The Jayhawks took a 42-32 lead just three and a half minutes into the second half on Wayne Selden’s three-pointer. But Le’Bryan Nash wouldn’t let the Jayhawks run away with it.
Despite a terrible first half in which he only scored two points and picked up a technical foul, Nash took control in the first eight minutes of the second half. The 6-7 senior scored 19 of his game-high 21 points in the final 20 minutes to keep it close.
Nash, who was 11-of-12 from the line, sank four consecutive free throws during a 26-second span to pull the Cowboys within 45-41 with 12:20 remaining in the game. But the Cowboys went nearly five minutes without making a basket, allowing KU to stretch the lead to 55-44 on Mason’s three-pointer.
KU wasn’t the only team spending a lot of time at the foul line Tuesday night. The Cowboys were 22-of-25 from the free-throw line, but shot a dismal 31.4 percent from the field (16 of 51).
Nash’s 21 points and 7 rebounds led the Cowboys, while Phil Forte contributed 18 points. After scoring 16 points in the first half to keep it close at halftime (32-28), Forte only scored 16 points in the second half and was hampered after suffering a leg injury when he was fouled by KU’s Landen Lucas with 13:17 remaining in the game. The junior guard was pulled by Ford several times but was limping noticably when reinserted into the game.
Ford, however, said on his post-game radio show that the Big 12’s leading scorer was fine.
“It was a hard-fought game, and we didn’t play very well,” the Cowboys head coach said. “It’s an uphill battle when you’re fouling as much as we were.”
OSU will look to rebound Saturday when the Cowboys face Bedlam rival Oklahoma in the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman. The 18th-ranked Sooners were 86-67 losers to No. 16 West Virginia on Tuesday night.