The Oklahoma State Cowboys will have to wait a few days for another shot at its first Big 12 victory this season after its fifth straight conference loss came on Saturday, 87-80 to the Kansas Jayhawks in Lawrence.
A notoriously difficult place for any opponent to pull out a win, Allen Fieldhouse has seen the Jayhawks win 52 consecutive home games.
It was the second consecutive Saturday road loss to the nation’s No. 2 team—games in which OSU emerged from the half with a lead but couldn’t hold off the home team.
Everything started smoothly for Coach Brad Underwood’s bunch at the outset as the Pokes jumped to a pair of early double digit leads and led for nearly the entire first half, even after Kansas had pulled within a couple after a 9-0 run a quarter of the way through the contest.
Junior Jeffrey Carroll continued to demonstrate why he is such a valuable veteran weapon off the bench. He poured in a game-high 23 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
Cowboy sophomore point guard Jawun Evans showcased his offensive talent early in setting the tone and leading OSU to the early 19-8 lead, but his production fell off once the teams returned from the half. Evans scored 11 points before the break but only four afterward.
Playing only seven players in the game, the Jayhawks saw limited production from its starters early, but as the game wore on, Kansas began to attack the rim and assert its might as the expected recipient of the No. 1 ranking when the polls come out next week.
Three Jayhawks topped 20 points. Frank Mason III led KU with 22, while his backcourt mate Devonte Graham had 21. Josh Jackson put in 20, half of which came from free throws.
Mason leads the conference in scoring, but was held in check from the field for most of the game. He scored 11 of KU’s first 17 points but got most of those at the line.
The Jawhawks defended their home court despite trailing in shooting percentage from the field, at the line and behind the arc.
Kansas didn’t lead until the 14:15 mark of the second half as Graham made a layup for the 50-49 advantage. KU only trailed once more—62-61—the remainder of the game.
OSU received a surprising—and at times jaw-dropping—effort from Mitchell Solomon, whose presence around the rim brought offensive rebounds and critical putbacks in the second half that allowed him to notch a career high 16 points.
Solomon!! https://t.co/pQohe8ipYX— Pistols Firing (@pistolsguy) January 14, 2017
The Cowboys struggled to find an answer for the tempo Kansas began to push later in the game, and foul totals began to take their toll on the gameplan and the scoreboard. The Pokes were called for 30 fouls and sent KU to the line 45 times—31 more than OSU.
KU freshman phenom Jackson alone shot more from the charity stripe (17) than the entire Cowboy squad and only made one less.
Perhaps the most astonishing stat is that Solomon was the only player who fouled out of the contest, but that may have been the devastating blow to the Cowboys’ hopes as it lost its greatest interior force and found itself unable to mount a comeback.
While the disparity in fouls and the free throws will certainly catch the eye of most OSU fans, the real difference came on the glass, where Kansas pulled down nine more boards, six of which were on its offensive end. That effort extended possessions and gave the Jayhawks more opportunities to cut into the early lead and extend the late one.
In the end, the Cowboys were unable to maintain the consistency it used in the early going to stake itself to a commanding lead. Foul trouble and missed opportunities hampered OSU’s ability to slow the Jayhawks attack.
Still, the Pokes has something to build on. It went into a hostile environment and—despite the loss—assured everyone that it is capable of taking on anyone in this conference, which should prove invaluable when these teams travel to Stillwater for the rematches.
Big on the Boards: Kansas led the Pokes on the boards, but Davon Dillard made his presence felt on the glass with a team-high eight rebounds. Dillard’s aggressive play kept OSU from backing down in Allen Fieldhouse.
Davon Dillard commits a felony on a first round pick. https://t.co/zw1dLNPcq6— Pistols Firing (@pistolsguy) January 14, 2017
Welcome Back: Freshman stretch guard Lindy Waters III returned to the court against the Jayhawks after sitting out the previous three games with a concussion. He played well in his return, scoring eight points, including a nifty first-half layup on a cut and feed from Carroll.
Sick cut and pass. https://t.co/YaQUYUI89K— Pistols Firing (@pistolsguy) January 14, 2017
Here are the top plays from today's action.
The Cowboys delivered some punches in Allen Fieldhouse today. Help us pick the top play overall. Vote below! #okstate pic.twitter.com/LKNK1eAqwd— Cowboy Basketball (@OSUMBB) January 14, 2017
Next: The Cowboys hosts No. 25 Kansas State on Wednesday at 7:00pm. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU.