Oklahoma State has lost three of its first four men’s basketball Big 12 Conference games by a combined seven points.
OSU’s most recent loss was the most devastating. The Cowboys held a 19-point lead with 11:15 remaining and allowed No. 14 West Virginia to rally for an 87-84 win in Gallagher-Iba Arena on Monday.
The Cowboys lost their first conference game by one point to TCU after holding an 8-point lead with 2:21 left. OSU held a 5-point halftime lead against Texas but allowed a 17-0 run in the second half. The Cowboys battled back down the stretch, but Texas held on, 77-74.
The Cowboys play Kansas State at 5 p.m. Saturday in Manhattan, Kansas.
OSU has played well enough to win in all of its Big 12 games, but an 82-77 overtime win at Texas Tech was the only time the Cowboys have finished the job. Head coach Mike Boynton said learning how to finish games is the next step.
“We played a top-15 team that’s really good and has a hall of fame coach and we were good enough to have a 19-point lead,” Boynton said after the WVU loss. “Now, can we be good enough to finish this game? That’s going to be the next step for this group. Can we finish the game? Because if you finish this game, you can elevate yourself to the upper tier of our conference, which means we’re a really damn good team. I believe we have a really good team.”
The Cowboys looked like the better team for much of Monday’s game before WVU went on a 15-1 run to cut the 19-point deficit to five before eventually gaining the lead. West Virginia hadn’t led all game until a Miles McBride 3-pointer gave the Mountaineers a 76-75 lead with three minutes left.
“I’m not sure we’ve figured out how to play with a lead and handle that type of prosperity in-game,” Boynton said. “There was a point in the game where I remember feeling like our focus was waning. I tried to remind our guys that there is a really good team at the other end of the court and (they) didn’t quite register it.”
OSU won its last two nonconference games by five points or less, and got it done against Texas Tech, but the Cowboys will need to figure out how to eliminate late-game collapses like they had against TCU and West Virginia.
Nineteen-point leads in the second half won’t come often for OSU against Big 12 teams. Junior guard Isaac Likekele said being the team to protect its lead is a different dynamic than the previous two years.
The Cowboys were usually the team that got down early and was forced to battle their way back into games.
“I’ve never been on the other side of being the better team every game and just having to sustain the win,” Likekele said. “I’ve always been the one fighting uphill. so it’s kind of different to me a little bit, too. But we’ll figure out how to finish these games. It’s very important that we do, and we’ve got to figure it out fast.”