LAWRENCE, Kan. -- The game was tied at halftime, signifying that the undermanned squad from Stillwater quietly and surprisingly had the men's hoops juggernaut on upset alert with 50 percent of the contest in the books.
The Oklahoma State men's basketball team closed the first half of its 84-72 loss to Kansas with a modest 5-0 run to tie the No. 13 Jayhawks at 36.
Then came Kansas' run.
The Jayhawks came out on fire in the second period, notching eight of the first 11 points scored to open the second half, helping unleash the roar of the 16,300 fans that filled Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday.
OSU freshman guard Isaac Likekele, who finished with 13 points and six assists in 37 minutes, was on the bench for the start of Kansas' monstrous run, which lasted about three minutes and effectively extinguished OSU's (9-14, 2-8 Big 12) upset chances in what seemed like the blink of an eye.
Likekele said what made Kansas' offensive spurt so effective was how quickly the Jayhawks were able to hit shots from deep.
"They just came out and were hitting shots," Likekele said. "People hit shots, tough shots. Once they got it going, it just happened so fast, you know. We tried to stay a little poised at the time, but you know, they did what they did and they made shots.”
Four straight unanswered 3-pointers pushed the Jayhawks (18-6, 7-4) out on a 23-6 run that they would never look back from.
Likekele said the Cowboys "caved in" to the Jayhawks a little bit in the second half, and that the lapse on OSU's part was mental more than anything else.
"They outhustled us," Likekele said. "Credit them, they played hard. We’ve just got to play harder."
Mike Boynton, OSU's coach, said he agreed with his point guard's assessment, but added that OSU did not defend shots from long range well in its zone on Saturday.
"Obviously, they made several threes in a row," Boynton said. "I don’t know exactly where the breakdowns were. Obviously, we were playing a little bit of zone, it’s kind of become a thing that teams who haven’t shot the ball well come into our game and all of a sudden find their magic touch and the ball just goes in the basket more. But again, they’ve got really good players."
Fatigue has become a common theme this year for the Cowboys, who now sit at the bottom of the Big 12 standings after falling a game behind West Virginia, who OSU defeated in their only matchup so far this season.
Boynton dismissed three scholarship players from the team for disciplinary reasons earlier in the season, and another scholarship player left the program on his own merit.
The Cowboys entered Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday with seven scholarship players available from its dwindled roster, and Duncan Demuth and Lindy Waters played through nagging injuries on Saturday that kept them each out of practices the week before.
Boynton has dug his feet in, though, on his stance of not feeling sorry for his team. He compared the season to a boxing match, saying he doesn't buy into the difficulty for his guys to keep their heads up and that he wants his team to "keep holding on to the rope."
"I don't buy into that," Boynton said. "They're competitors. There's no such thing. If their heads are down and they don't feel like they can play, I would advise them not to show up to practice. In our program, when you show up, you're going to do your job at a high level every single day. You're going to compete to try to win because it's not about you. It's not about how you feel. It's not about how I feel. We don't represent just ourselves. We represent a lot of people out there who expect to see a certain level of effort, and eventually, they expect us to win some games too. But for right now, the effort must continue to be there.
"You keep standing there. Sometimes, you take some body shots, and they hurt, but you try to get your swings in as much as you can also while you fight, and then eventually, you’ll get the better of the other team."