Lindy Waters III tightly secured the basketball in his arms, refusing to let go of a chance to escape monotony.
The Oklahoma State men’s basketball team has repeatedly allowed early progress to disintegrate, but it salvaged momentum against OSU coach Mike Boynton’s alma mater.
The Cowboys edged past South Carolina 74-70 on Saturday afternoon in an SEC/Big 12 Challenge game at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
OSU, which is 9-11 overall, snapped a three-game losing streak.
“Man, these kids are resilient,” Boynton said. “They never let go of the rope. They kept pulling, and eventually, we were able to pull it over the line.”
Waters, a junior guard and captain, sealed the victory in the last 19 seconds. He made a layup to give the Cowboys a 72-67 lead and then grabbed a defensive rebound after South Carolina’s Hassani Gravett missed a 3-pointer.
As Waters protected the ball, Felipe Hasse fouled him in the backcourt, sending Waters to the line to shoot two free throws.
Waters, who finished with 17 points and six rebounds, sank each shot. A.J. Lawson hit a buzzer-beater 3-pointer for the Gamecocks, but it wasn’t enough to spoil the Cowboys’ advantage.
OSU found an early spark at the free-throw line. The Cowboys started 9-for-9 from the stripe and limited fouls, never sending the Gamecocks to the line in the first half. OSU had a five-point lead at halftime.
South Carolina (10-9) didn’t surrender easily.
The Cowboys and Gamecocks changed leads 22 times.
With eight minutes left, Thomas Dziagwa, a Cowboy junior guard, encouraged his teammates to avoid the familiar outcome of losing ground.
“Right here,” Dziagwa said. “Right here is where we need to get better.”
Dziagwa, a junior guard, had 19 points, tying a career high from a victory against Oklahoma on Jan. 3, 2018.
“We’ve been chopping wood, and eventually, a tree falls,” Dziagwa said. “And today, it fell.”
As Dziagwa relied on his 3-point shots, Cameron McGriff enlivened a once-subdued crowd with his monstrous dunks.
McGriff, a junior forward, made three dunks and recorded 14 points. He maintained high energy, pumping his fists and motioning for fans to stand after his powerful plays.
Yor Anei, a freshman starter, led the Cowboys with 11 rebounds.
“Everybody has a role to play, and today, everybody executed their role to a T,” Dziagwa said.
For the Cowboys, it was more than only an SEC/Big 12 Challenge. During the Remember the 10 game, they honored the lives of 10 individuals who died in an airplane crash on Jan. 27, 2001. The 10 men, who were involved with the Cowboy basketball organization, inspired Waters as he competed against South Carolina and clinched the victory.
“Today, we were just playing for just remembering the 10,” Waters said. “That was our only goal for today.”