STILLWATER- The Cowboys, coming into this game, had won the last three at home against Kansas and a total of five of the last seven in Gallagher-Iba against the Jayhawks. Oklahoma State came into this sold-out matchup leading the Jayhawks in the series at GIA 34-32. From the very beginning of this game, the crowd was electric and there was no doubt that they kept the Cowboys in this game from the opening tip, all the way to the final buzzer. But it wasn’t enough as the Cowboys fell to Kansas tonight 90 to 85.
There was no doubt that it was going to be a very wide open game with each side knocking down big shots. And it turned out that for each side, the three-point shot would be the shot of choice with both sides having shot a combined 57 three pointers for the game. 36 of those threes coming from the Cowboys. Anytime the number one team in the country would knock down a big three or a clutch layup, the Cowboys almost always had an answer down on the other end. The Cowboys were outrebounded by the Jayhawks 42 to 30, but it was the defensive side of the ball that the Jayhawks outperformed the Cowboys on as Kansas had 30 defensive rebounds to OSU’s 18. In Coach Underwood’s opening statement tonight in his postgame press conference, he touched on the fact that the Cowboys were outrebounded. "A lot of credit goes to Kansas. I thought they were way more aggressive, really all night than we were. That was very reflective in the rebounding numbers. I thought again Lagerald Vick was absolutely a Cowboy destroyer. He got us in the first game with four rebounds and he had nine today. They made every single hustle play that great teams do. That's a position at the small forward spot that we have been dominating on the glass, and they won that battle today. You're not beating the number one team in the country when you get out rebounded by 12.". And when senior Phil Forte was in front of the media, he was asked what Coach Underwood’s message was after the game, "He talked about rebounding. We got out-rebounded. And obviously giving up 90 points on your home court isn't going to win a whole lot of games. Defense and rebounding are the two keys we have to work on going into the Big 12 Tournament and the NCAA Tournament.". The Jayhawks also shot 55.7 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from beyond the arc. Whereas the Cowboys shot 42.3 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from beyond the arc. The Cowboys did manage however to shoot an impressive 13 of 14 from the foul line. They also forced 14 KU turnovers, had one more assist than the Jayhawks (19 to 18) and had one more steal than the Jayhawks (7 to 6).
To say that Juwan Evans had a slow start would be an understatement as he went scoreless for the first 13 and a half minutes of the game. But finally got on the board with a very acrobatic layup in heavy traffic. Evans shot just 2 of 8 from the field and 1 of 3 from 3-point range in the first half, but then, got very hot. He finished the night 7 of 18 from the floor, just 1 of 7 from 3-point range but finished a perfect 7 of 7 from the foul line (making that 29 straight made free throws) and racked up a career high 15 assists to record his third double-double of his career. When asked about his increased production in the second half, Evans was quick to first give his coach the credit, "Coach was just giving us the right plays. I just had to be more aggressive. I was just trying to get in the paint and see the ball go in. I feel like that got me going.". Evans was outstanding in what may have been his final game inside Gallagher-Iba Arena, but Kansas point guard Frank Mason III, showed why he’s considered one of the top point guards in the country as well as one of the leading candidates for the National Player of the Year shooting 9 of 16 from the floor, 4 of 8 from beyond the arc and 6 of 6 from the free throw line for 27 points in the game. When Mason was asked about having to Guard Juwan, this is what he had to say, "He's a great guard. You just have to do as much as you can on both sides. Him guarding me and me guarding him. You just have to do all you can."
Evans is now tied for fourth most assists in school history and are most by an OSU player since Doug Gottlieb had amassed 16 against North Texas back in 1999.
Jeffrey Carroll, who started off for the Cowboys scoring 10 of the first 13 points, finished the game just as hot as he started shooting 9 of 17 from the floor and was 5 of 11 from beyond the arc scoring a team-high 27 points. He reached double-digit points in just 4:27 seconds of game time He also finished the game a perfect 4 for 4 from the charity stripe and four defensive reounds.
Seniors Phil Forte and Leyton Hammonds had relatively quiet games with Forte scoring 13 points albeit with decent numbers. 5 of 11 from the field and 3 of 8 from beyond the three-point arc and four rebounds. Hammonds scored 10 points, shooting 4 of 8 from the field and 2 of 6 from beyond the three-point arc. And with it being his last home game as a Cowboy, Forte was asked what he thought his favorite memory of being a Cowboy would be, and he got just a little emotional when delivering that thought, "Probably just the fans. There's so many great memories and so many great wins. I'll miss taking the court with my teammates and hearing my name called when they announce the starting lineups. Every little thing and every little detail. Coming into the game, I was just trying to embrace every moment of it. I couldn't have asked for a better five years. Thank goodness this isn't the end of our season. We have more basketball to be played and there's not another group of guys I'd rather go into the postseason with than our team right here.".
The Cowboys didn’t finish the season how they wanted to, dropping the last two games. One to Iowa State in Ames, one of the toughest places to play in the country and only lost by three, and then senior night against the number one team in the country Kansas where they only lost by five. But when asked about the postseason Forte didn’t hesitate to give his team credit for just how tough they really are, "Just because we fell short the last two games, doesn't change how I feel. These last two could have gone either way. I think we're playing well. We just have to tighten things up on the defensive end and I think we'll be good from there. We're very talented and we have different ways we could beat teams. I think when you go into the tournament, that is kind of dangerous. One game at a time and win-or-go-home mentality from here on out. Whoever we're playing, focus on that opponent.".