Hoops: Late Game Magic Runs Out For Horns

After weeks of living on the edge, the Horns finally fell off the cliff.

Oklahoma State opened up a double-digit second half lead and held on dispute a furious Texas comeback over the final minutes, earning a 72-67 win that pushed the Cowboys (14-2, 4-1) a half game ahead of the Horns (12-3, 3-1) for third in the Big 12 standings. UT had been tied with Texas Tech and Kansas at the top. The loss was the Horns' first since Duke demolished Texas back on Dec. 20.

The cardiac Horns had opportunities at the end to pull it out just as they had done in previous nail-biters vs. Providence, Nebraska and Missouri. Trailing by 11, 60-49, at the 8:00 mark, Texas chipped away at the Cowboys lead, cutting it to seven with 6:13 to play, to six at the 4:37 mark, to four with 2:53 to play, and finally to two at 68-66 on a Kenny Taylor three at the 1:37 mark, but the Horns couldn't close the final gap.

Texas forced a miss on OSU's next possession, but back-up Terrence Crawford, in the game for fouled-out forward Ivan McFarland, pulled down the biggest rebound of the day for the visitors off a Joey Graham point-blank miss with a minute left on the clock, giving the Cowboys a fresh 35-second clock. After an Okie State timeout, Baylor transfer John Lucas milked the clock outside the arc before finding Crawford wide open underneath the bucket for an easy two and a four-point Cowboys lead with 26 ticks remaining. Brian Boddicker had popped outside on defense, and Jason Klotz reacted late to the defensive switch, allowing the backbreaking bucket.

Texas got to the line on each of its next two possessions, but recent Mr. Clutch Royal Ivey missed one of two free throws on his first trip to the line and then both attempts on his second trip, allowing Oklahoma State to hang on.

"I wouldn't say it slipped away, I just think that we've got to be ready to go whatever comes our way," Ivey said postgame. "We can't say we let it slip away because that takes away from what Oklahoma State did."

What the Cowboys did was snap the Horns' 25-game home win streak that dated back to another OSU win in Austin on Feb. 20, 2002.

"They played well," Rick Barnes said of Eddie Sutton's bunch. "I think they get all the credit. The bottom line is they played terrific basketball and made the plays when they had to make them."

But, Barnes added, "I told our guys, a sure-fire way to lose basketball games is to miss free throws, not rebound and have defensive breakdowns." All of which afflicted Texas.

Over the final 4:21 of the game, the Horns missed seven of nine free throw attempts (OSU hit four-of-eight over the same span) and shot an anemic 10-of-20 for the game (Okie State, at 72.7-percent, bettered its season average by almost nine percentage points). The smaller Cowboys also outrebounded Texas 38-30. The Horns hit 45.6-percent of their shots for the game while OSU connected on 48.1-percent. UT turned the ball over just 10 times to the Cowboys' 12.

Ivey led Texas with 14 points. James Thomas, in 17 minutes off the bench, tied his season high with 13 points, and he added nine boards. Brandon Mouton contributed 11 and Klotz set a new season high with 10 points. Joey Graham led all scorers with 21 points. Lucas (13), Daniel Bobik (12) and Tony Allen (11) all reached double figures for the Cowboys.

Texas fell behind early, trailing by as many as seven in the opening minutes but grabbed its first lead, 21-20, with about nine minutes gone in the opening half. Oklahoma State quickly responded with five straight to take a 25-21 lead, but the Horns scored nine unanswered points to opened up their biggest lead of the afternoon at 30-25. The Cowboys hung tough, though, tying it up at 30. Texas led 35-32 at the half.

Oklahoma State quickly grabbed the lead to open the second half, scoring five straight. The game remained tight till about the 11-minute mark, when the Cowboys went on a 10-1 run to stretch a 50-48 lead to 60-49, setting up the closing stretch.

How painful is the home loss in the race for a conference crown?

"It's no different than any other loss," Barnes said. "It's in January and I think every time you go out you've got to be ready. I'm not big in believing that the win at Missouri was any bigger than any other win we have just like this loss is a tough loss, but it can happen. It happens in college basketball. Today, Providence goes in and wins at Connecticut. Those things happen. As much as we want to win all of our games -- and believe me, we do -- we're not going to win them all. We've got to let it go, get ready for Monday, which will be a very tough game."

Texas now faces a crucial contest with the league-leading, streaking Red Raiders (16-2, 4-0) at 6 p.m. Monday in Lubbock.

"We're so early in the conference race that I wouldn't rule anybody out," Sutton said. "I think by winning, it certainly puts us up there in a position where we can be a challenger."

"If I had to pick a team, I'd still pick Texas to win the league," the Okie State head coach added. "They're deep, they've got size, they've got great perimeter play and nobody's gonna go through this league undefeated... I think Texas is a really good basketball team."

But on this day, not good enough to fend off Sutton's scrappy team from Stillwater.

Horns Digest Top Stories