Page, Cowboys Wrangle Longhorns

Stillwater has been a trip-up on the schedule of a number of Big 12 teams. In fact, heading into Saturday's showdown with Texas, the Cowboys — despite a 5-8 league record — were 2-1 at home against the league's top five teams.

Make that 3-1, with Kansas still yet to trip Gallagher-Iba Arena. The Cowboys ended the Longhorns' four-game winning streak in raucous offensive fashion, scoring a season-high-tying 90 points in a 90-78 victory.

Nearly half of those points belonged to Keiton Page, who entered the contest averaging 14.8 points. Page poured in 27 first-half points — one shy of Michael Beasley's record for scoring in a half — and finished with a career-high 40. Page's performance marked just the sixth time in Oklahoma State history that a player hit or topped the 40-point barrier.

Page's performance helped the Cowboys establish an early lead — at 9-8 — that they never gave away. And it aided them in overcoming a 27-0 bench scoring disadvantage. But while the Longhorns often had to go to their bench because of foul troubles, the Cowboys were propping themselves up with the ensuing free throws.

In the first half, Oklahoma State made 21-of-27 free throws, to 8-of-10 for Texas. That 13-point advantage was apparent in the scoreline, as Oklahoma State led 51-39 at halftime, despite a combined 16 points from Sheldon McClellan and Sterling Gibbs off the bench. Texas actually did well to keep the score as a single-digit scoreline, until Page hit a three-pointer at the buzzer. The Cowboys' 51 first-half potions actually topped their overall scoring in the two teams' first meeting, a 58-49 Texas victory in Austin.

The two teams largely traded scores early in the second half, with Oklahoma State keeping a 12-point lead at 61-49. Then the Longhorns had their best burst. Myck Kabongo hit a jumper, then Jonathan Holmes made a layup. Back-to-back buckets from J'Covan Brown, including a three-pointer, cut the advantage down to three at 61-58 with 10:17 left. Texas trailed by four at 64-60 when Oklahoma State went on a 10-1 run of its own to build a 74-61 advantage.

Still, the Longhorns didn't buckle, making one last run at it. Kabongo made two free throws, Brown drilled a three and made two free throws, and the lead was back down to six with 3:42 left.

But that was the last high point. Oklahoma State is the Big 12's top free throw shooting team, and the Cowboys showed it down the stretch, making 15-of-16 in the game's final three minutes.

Page was 8-of-14 from the field, including 4-of-8 from three-point range. But his biggest impact was on the free throw line, where he made all 20 freebies. Le'Bryan Nash scored 18 points, while Markel Brown had 12 points and 11 rebounds. Michael Cobbins had 12 points, seven boards and four blocks. Brian Williams was the only starter not to hit double-figures — and he missed six of his 10 free throws — but in addition to his eight points, Williams chipped in six steals and three blocks.

Myck Kabongo led all the Longhorns with a career-high 22 points, though he had five turnovers. J'Covan Brown had 20 and another four turnovers. McClellan added 15 points off the bench.

Oklahoma State moved to within a game of .500 at 13-14, and to 6-8 in the Big 12. Texas, meanwhile, saw its margin for error shrink. At 17-10 and 7-7, Texas has four games left to win three games to get to 1) 20 regular-season wins and 2) a winning record in league play. Both have typically meant NCAA Tournament berths in the past.

But the Longhorns have even more incentive to hit those spots, as Kansas State — a team that is often considered hand-in-hand with Longhorns — pulled out a big win at Baylor Saturday. Texas has a chance to accomplish the same feat in Austin on Monday, but if the two teams are considered side-by-side (they split the season series 1-1), Kansas State also has wins over Missouri, Alabama and Long Beach State, all of whom are top-50ish teams. The Wildcats also have Iowa State yet to visit Manhattan. The Longhorns, meanwhile, have a win over Iowa State and one over Temple. Texas does still have that chance at Baylor, but traveling to Lawrence and beating Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse is unlikely.

That means that the Longhorns must win three-of-four to get to those magical numbers. And while Texas will likely be expected to beat Texas Tech on the road and Oklahoma in Austin, the Longhorns will need to accomplish both of those feats AND pull an upset to get there.

The road — now quite a bit tougher — starts up again at 8 p.m. Monday against Baylor.

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