Despite a valiantly fought second half, Oklahoma State fell to Kansas State 75-71 in the first round of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Basketball Tournament on Wednesday night in Kansas City.
With the loss, OSU falls to 12-20 on the season and finishes as the fourth 20-loss season in program history. Kansas State now advances to play top-seeded Kansas tomorrow.
"We fought so much adversity this year. I told them I couldn't be more proud. They learned so many life lessons. There's going to be a lot of adversity in people's lives, whether it be jobs, marriage, whatever it maybe, you will find it. But if they handle adversity the way they did this season, good things will happen for them," OSU head coach Travis Ford said.
Things definitely didn’t start as planned for the injury-riddled Cowboys inside of the Sprint Center.
After taking a 4-2 early lead, things went south quickly for OSU. Kansas State reeled off a 17-to-4 run to get up 21-8, and behind the lethal scoring punch of Dean Wade and Wesley Iwundu, the Wildcats went into halftime with a 40-23 lead.
Even with first-half ankle injuries to both Mitchell Solomon and Leyton Hammonds, the Cowboys refused to roll over and let the game get out of hand.
OSU began the second half on a 14-to-8 run to get back within 11 points, and kept the Wildcats within reaching distance in the second half. But with less than two minutes remaining, OSU made its most important run.
Tyree Griffin drove to the left of the lane which sucked in the KSU defense, leaving Anthony Allen Jr. open under the basket, where he caught the pass from Griffin and rattled the rim to bring the Cowboys within eight points with 1:57 left in the game. After KSU notched a single free throw on the other end, Griffin resumed his facilitating ways.
The point guard once again penetrated towards the basket, and swung a pass out to a wide open Hammonds in the corner, who swished a 3-pointer to make the score 70-64. OSU then had a chance to cut even more off of the KSU lead, but the Cowboys failed to grab a defensive rebound after Iwundu missed two free throws and the Wildcats were able to get the ball back extend its lead to 72-64 and virtually seal the deal.
"Well, nobody want to lose. Like we went into every game thinking we was going to win, even with a short bench," Griffin said after recording a double-double in the loss. "Like the games that we lost, we never made excuses or nothing."
Wade scored a career-high 20 points for KSU, while Justin Edwards added 17 points in the win.
Joe Burton and Jeffrey Carroll led the Cowboys in scoring with 13 points each off the bench, but it was Griffin who had the biggest impact with 11 points and 10 assists. Hammonds also scored in double-digits with 10 points.
This will be the first time in Big 12 Tournament history that the Cowboys did not advance to the second day. With the recent struggles from the program, many wonder if this will be Ford's last game as head coach.
"Well, I'm just proud of these guys right now, and I worry about my players, as I always do," Ford said when asked about his job status. "We're about trying to keep their spirits up and haven't gave much thought to it at this point. But very proud of these guys. And that's been my total focus."