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Cowboys stick with No. 15 Kansas, can't achieve upset at Gallagher-Iba Arena

Lindy Waters III

Oklahoma State guard Lindy Waters III fires the possible game-tying 3-pointer in the final seconds of OSU's 72-67 loss to Kansas on Saturday in Gallagher-Iba Arena.

The defenders left Lindy Waters III with an open shot behind the right side of the arc.

The Oklahoma State men’s basketball team tried to execute the play that could have forced overtime. The Cowboys faked a ball screen, distracting Kansas' players and allowing Waters to shoot an uncontested 3-pointer.

Waters, a prolific 3-point shooter, let go of the ball, but it didn’t land through the hoop.

The Jayhawks claimed a 72-67 victory against the Cowboys on Saturday in Gallagher-Iba Arena. OSU, a team with seven available scholarship players, nearly upset the No. 15 team in the country.

Cameron McGriff, a junior starting forward, said the Cowboys always want Waters to take that shot.

“They’re not all going to fall down, but it was a great look,” McGriff said. “Coach drew up a good play, and it just didn’t go our way this time.”

The Cowboys entered halftime with a 37-32 lead.

OSU (10-19 overall, 3-13 Big 12) kept Kansas in danger of a loss despite adversity in the second half. Waters, a junior guard who finished with six points, headed to the bench with 15:11 left. Then he left the court with an apparent right leg injury, though coach Mike Boynton said he doesn’t know details about it.

“I was focused on the timeout, and I was told he had to go get evaluated,” Boynton said.

Yor Anei, a freshman starting forward, picked up his fourth foul with 13:22 left, and Boynton benched him. A limited roster was somehow dwindling, but the Cowboys didn’t relent, chipping at Kansas’ 43-39 lead that resulted from an 11-0 second-half run.

McGriff and junior guard Curtis Jones led OSU with 19 points each. They hit back-to-back 3-pointers to cut the Jayhawks’ advantage to 50-47.

“My teammates were looking for me,” Jones said. “Just trying to keep it going, trying to provide a spark off the bench.”

McGriff gave the Cowboys control again. Although he slipped on the court and momentarily grimaced in pain, he maintained toughness and soon made a jump shot with ease to give OSU a 57-55 lead with 9:07 left.

Waters returned with 7:59 left, and Boynton put Anei in the lineup with 3:02 left. As the final minute approached, the Cowboys lost another leader.

McGriff fouled out when the game was tied at 67, and Quentin Grimes’ free throw put Kansas (22-7, 11-5) ahead of OSU.

The Jayhawks went 20-for-23 from the foul line. OSU shot five free throws and made two. Three Cowboys picked up at least four fouls, and the fans emphatically booed the referees’ calls. Boynton said he preferred not to talk about the teams’ free-throw differences.

Foul shots sealed OSU’s fate. Three seconds after Waters missed the 3-pointer, a foul was called on him, and Ochai Agbaji sank two free throws to ice Kansas’ victory.

The Cowboys never wavered in their tenacity. McGriff had eight rebounds, and Anei blocked four shots.

Despite their toughness against a historically dominant program, McGriff and Jones said they aren’t counting moral victories. Boynton said he is proud of his team for personifying the spirit he wants within the program, but he was careful not to glorify anything.

“I don't want them to get comfortable with losing,” Boynton said. “It's a danger when you don't have success and people tell you how hard and well you're playing, to start to accept that. We will not accept that. I don't want any Oklahoma State fans to start to feel like losing is OK.”

sports.ed@ocolly.com