And just like that, the offseason is upon us.
Oklahoma State, while not playing in the tournament they had hoped at the beginning of the season, found itself with a chance to play for a trip to Madison Square Garden for the NIT Final Four. With a lot on the line, and a pro-Cowboy crowd, the Cowboys fell short to Western Kentucky 92-84. The season ends with this loss, and Oklahoma State ends the 2017-18 campaign with a 21-15 record.
It was a packed house in Stillwater, especially considering the circumstances. The NIT doesn’t mean all that much in the grand scheme of things, but tonight’s crowd proved that Oklahoma State is ready for good basketball again.
All night, the crowd seemed engaged and essentially did everything they could to try to will the home Cowboys to a win. For a program that’s trying to win back a jaded fanbase, tonight’s turnout was a welcomed sight. Check out the kids having a blast on the white maple!
Ultimately, the raucous environment would not be enough. Western Kentucky remained poised and focused for the majority of the night, and got out of Stillwater with a pretty remarkable win.
Phenomenal crowd tonight in GIA, Mike Boynton's 363rd day as #OKState head coach. Not sold out, but not far from it. Support coming back to program in droves.— Mark Cooper (@mark_cooperjr) March 21, 2018
The Hilltoppers essentially led wire-to-wire, and had an answer every time the Cowboys threatened. They were led by a 30-point effort from true freshman Taveion Hollingsworth, which tied his career high. Hollingsworth drilled four threes in the first half, keeping Oklahoma State at arms length.
The Pokes threatened at the beginning of the fourth quarter with the score tied at 60, but the Hilltoppers quickly went on a 9-2 run to put the Cowboys under for good. The pivotal stretch came when Tavarius Shine fouled out on a wild sequence. Shine was hit with a technical and dead ball contact foul, which immediately took his foul count from three to five. Western Kentucky hit a free throw and a three on the ensuing possession and never looked back.
Here is the head butt by Tavarius Shine against Lamonte Bearden in the WKU-OK State game. pic.twitter.com/9xML6Jz4ZK— WKU Redzone Radio (@WKURedzone) March 22, 2018
Kendall Smith led all Oklahoma State scorers with 19 points. Mitchell Solomon added 10, while Jeffrey Carroll washeld in check with 9. I can’t imagine Oklahoma State has won many games in the last two years when Carroll scores in single digits.
It’s a bitter loss for the Cowboy seniors who played their last game in Gallagher-Iba Arena, but the hope in Stillwater is that they’ve laid the foundation for the future. This is the first time in a long time that I’ve personally felt like the future was bright for Cowboy basketball, but under this leadership, it’s hard not to feel excited.