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Foul trouble a big factor in Cowboys title game loss

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The Oklahoma State Cowboys and Texas Longhorns compete during the Phillips 66 Big 12 Basketball Championship at the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, Missouri on March 10, 2021. (Denny Medley\Big 12 Conference)

Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe lined up along the key for Jericho Sims’ free throw attempts.

Moncrieffe wouldn’t get to see those attempts, at least not from the court. Unaware the foul he just committed was his fifth, he had to be called over to the bench by coach Mike Boynton before the first shot was taken.

He sat sweaty and dejected on the bench for the final 4:31. Avery Anderson would also foul out minutes later as Oklahoma State started to make a last-minute comeback.

“It was tough,” Kalib Boone said. “That’s why you have reinforcements. They played their hearts out and gave us everything they could.”

The Cowboys combined for 22 fouls in their 91-86 loss against Texas in the Big 12 Tournament title game Saturday night.

The 22 fouls were an outlier in OSU’s Big 12 Tournament performance. They committed 13 against West Virginia in the quarterfinals and 11 against Baylor in the semifinals.

The Cowboys surpassed both of those totals in just the second half of Saturday’s game. As a team they committed 17 fouls in the final 20 minutes.

Boynton said officiating was tight in the second half, a factor in the high team fouls.

Moncrieffe’s five were committed in the second half, as were four of Anderson’s.

Rondel Walker finished with four, two were intentional fouls in the final 75 seconds, and Likekele had three.

Neither Moncrieffe or Anderson were available for comment after the game, but Boynton said their absence in the final minutes was huge.

“The rebounding disparity was big, that's one of the areas that Moncrieffe helps us a lot,” Boynton said. “Then having Avery being able to drive and draw fouls is something we thought we would be able to do.”

The first half was tamer, with only five team fouls.

The problem came with Cade Cunningham committing three of them in the first 15 minutes. Boynton said the early foul trouble did not affect Cunningham.

“I thought he was assertive, he did Cade things late and made some big shots and kept us alive there,” Boynton said.

The Cowboys second-place finish in the Big 12 Tournament is the best of Boynton’s career. They will find out their seeding in the NCAA Tournament on Sunday. The Cowboys are projected as either a two or three seed according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi.

“We’ve got nothing but soldiers on this team,” Isaac Likekele said.