Cowboys Fall to Jayhawks; Await NIT Bid

The Oklahoma State Cowboys reign as the two-time defending Big 12 Conference Tournament champions came to an end Friday night. The Cowboys, however, did not go down without a fight by rallying from a six-point deficit in the final 32 seconds only to come up one-point short in a 63-62 loss to 18th-ranked Kansas in a Big 12 quarterfinal. The loss means that the Cowboys' eight-year run of NCAA Tournament appearances comes to an end, and they must wait to see if they will receive an NIT invitation.

Oklahoma State, 17-15, is expected to accept a bid to play in the NIT if it's offered Sunday night, and could host a first-round game next week. It will be the first time since the 1996-97 season that the Cowboys will not be playing in the NCAA Tournament. The Cowboys finished the 1996-97 season with a 16-14 record before playing in the NIT, where they defeated Tulane in a first-round game before losing at Michigan in the second round.

Freshmen Byron Eaton and Terrel Harris did their best to rally the Cowboys after it appeared that Kansas had wrapped it up with Mario Chalmers two free throws with 1:06 remaining to give the Jayhawks a 59-51. Eaton hit a pair of three-pointers, including a long range bomb with just 1.3 seconds remaining to pull the Cowboys within the final margin.

Harris scored a pair of baskets, including a controversial three-pointer with 19.8 seconds left in which the officials had to go to a courtside television monitor to determine if his foot was on the line or he had indeed made a three-pointer, in the final 32 seconds.

The Cowboys, however, shot just 38 percent from the field and committed 22 turnovers, and wouldn't have even been in the game if they didn't make a season-high 10 three-pointers, including five by Eaton. The freshman point guard, playing in his hometown of Dallas, made 5-of-6 three-pointers and led the Cowboys with a career-high 18 points while also contributing a team-high 8 rebounds, 5 steals and 3 assists.

"It was a tough one but the same things that hurt us all season hurt us again tonight – turnovers and scoring droughts," said Cowboy head coach designate Sean Sutton. "Down the stretch of the season we got a lot of things fixed, we got better offensively and we made improvement rebounding the basketball, but we never fixed the turnover issue. You can't turn it over 22 times against a good basketball team. Kansas is a team that I think has a chance to go to the Sweet 16."

The Cowboys used a 12-2 run – spurred by a pair of three-pointers by Eaton – in the first three minutes of the second half to erase a 32-23 halftime deficit and take a 35-34 lead. But KU would go on a 9-0 run and the Cowboys would not score for nearly eight minutes before JamesOn Curry finally hit a three-pointer with 9:08 remaining. It was an uphill struggle the rest of the way for the Cowboys as they scratched their way back into it.

"We went on that 12-2 run to up and then we hit one of those droughts again. We fought and got ourselves back in the game but there were just too many empty possessions, you just can't turn the ball over like that," Sean Sutton said.

Besides Eaton, Curry (17 points and six rebounds) and Mario Boggan (10 points and three rebounds) were the only other Cowboys in double figures. Boggan and Torre Johnson, who combined for 43 points in the Cowboys' first-round win over Iowa State on Thursday night, struggled against the bigger and stronger KU post players. Boggan was just 4 for 10, while Johnson made just 1 of 7 shots from the field and finished with four points.

Sutton praised the play of Eaton. "He's going to be a heck of a player. He's got to learn to take better care of the basketball, but he's a big-time competitor. He made several big shots down the stretch that gave us a chance to win the game."

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