The sparse crowd erupted with frenzied cheers and applause during the Oklahoma State men’s basketball team’s second-worst loss at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
The fans had plenty of reasons not to celebrate.
Texas Tech throttled the Cowboys 78-50 on Wednesday night in Stillwater. OSU extended its Big 12 losing streak to seven. For the first six minutes and three seconds after halftime, the Cowboys didn’t score.
It was clear OSU had no way to win, but the crowd wildly roared.
Tanner Taylor, a walk-on junior guard and former manager, made his first shot in a Cowboy uniform.
Taylor stood behind the right side of the arc and splashed a 3-pointer through the hoop with 1:41 left.
Fans’ voices boomed louder as Dee Mitchell, Gabe Simpson and Cade Wagner stepped on the court. The Cowboys closed the game with starting point guard Isaac Likekele and four new walk-ons who had never played a game for OSU.
Mike Boynton, the Cowboys’ coach, described it as the silver lining.
“I’m thrilled for those kids,” Boynton said.
The moment was sweet but sour for the Cowboys. The walk-ons had an opportunity because OSU had no chance of recovery.
The only loss at Gallagher-Iba Arena with a larger margin of defeat happened when Kansas demolished OSU 80-47 on Feb. 19, 1966.
The Cowboys nearly set the record they never wanted to break against Texas Tech. Norense Odiase, a redshirt senior center, made a free throw for the Red Raiders with 13:37 left, trapping OSU in a 62-25 deficit. Although the Cowboys avoided record-setting embarrassment, they rarely challenged Texas Tech.
“We didn’t really force them to do anything,” Boynton said. “We didn’t have an answer for them. We were outplayed in every facet of the game.”
The Cowboys allowed the Red Raiders to shoot 12-for-25 from 3-point range. Matt Mooney, a Texas Tech redshirt senior guard, went 5-for-5 from 3.
Lindy Waters III, an OSU junior guard, said the Cowboys and Red Raiders contested shots differently.
“They were right up on us, making a little contact with us,” Waters said. “We would contest, but we’d still be a couple inches away.”
Waters sensed the Cowboys’ potential for struggles before the game. He said they weren’t focused in shootaround and didn’t remember plays.
Cameron McGriff, a junior forward and captain, scored the Cowboys’ first nine points. No other OSU player scored until junior guard Curtis Jones hit a 3-point jumper with 11:21 until halftime.
McGriff said he has the same mindset going into each game.
“Be the hardest-playing guy on the court at all times,” McGriff said. “Hustle plays is just what I hang my hat on.”
Despite McGriff’s effort, mistakes littered the Cowboys’ stat sheet. They had 14 turnovers, twice as many as Texas Tech. Freshman Yor Anei fouled out, and four fouls were called on Waters.
OSU went 5-for-20 from 3. Thomas Dziagwa, a Cowboy captain, had three points.
Boynton made adjustments, none of them producing the outcome he wanted. He put Luke Major, a freshman walk-on, in the game for Dziagwa with 18:28 left.
“At that point, I was grasping for straws,” Boynton said. “I was trying anything.”
Waters said he and his fellow captains are familiar with adversity, but his freshman teammates aren’t accustomed to experiencing the mental fatigue from perpetual losses. As the Big 12 schedule continues, the Cowboys are still looking for solutions.
“We know when things start to go south not to panic, but you gotta get hold of the reins,” Waters said. “We gotta figure out something to get those reins.”