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'Welcome to Big 12 basketball': Young Cowboy team gets wake-up call in conference-opening loss

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Cade Cunningham and Issac Likekele

Cade Cunningham and Issac Likekele high five during Oklahoma State's loss to TCU on December 16, 2020, at Gallagher-Iba Arena.

Coach Mike Boynton has been talking about how difficult it is to win in the Big 12 since the start of the season.

His team got to experience that first-hand on Wednesday night.

OSU held an eight-point lead at home with 2:05 left in the game against TCU. The Horned Frogs then went on a 9-0 run in that final stretch and snatched a victory out of the Cowboys’ grip. To lose in that fashion plays into Boynton’s message for his young players: “Welcome to the Big 12.”

"This is every night out, it's a fight for 40 full minutes,” Boynton said. “We did some good things, but we didn't do enough to win and in this league, you've got to go win the game. You have to make the plays down the stretch.”

It isn’t just for the young guys though. Even for the older and more experienced players, this game served as a wake-up call.

You have to close out games, especially in conference play.

“That's something that we'll start to definitely take more serious is just closing out games,” senior Ferron Flavors Jr. said. “We were up eight with two minutes left in the game at home. Those are games that we're going to have to close out in the future."

Now for the Cowboys, the next few days of practice are very important. After a loss to an unranked TCU team, the gauntlet of the Big 12 lays ahead.

Next up for OSU is a date in Austin with No. 11 Texas. After that, it’s No. 12 Texas Tech, then No. 8 West Virginia.

Boynton isn’t worried about his team’s morale after this though. Being able to bounce back after tough times is a quality that he looks for in his players.

“Part of the reason we recruit the guys we recruit is because we want guys that can deal with adversity. We've got to find a way to get better tomorrow and be ready to bounce back because it doesn't get any easier.”

For Cowboy fans, it can be easy to get discouraged after seeing this loss. But, one thing to keep in mind is that this is a young team, and there are going to be some growing pains no matter the talent level.

“There's a learning curve for our guys and one thing I know is they're competitors, they're fighters and I expect them to come back with a great attitude wanting to be coached and wanting to figure out how to get better and be more prepared for the next one," Boynton said.

That next one is going to be a difficult challenge for sure. Texas is an athletic team that also has a lot of height. Going into Austin on Sunday and coming out with a win won’t be easy.

For the team though, the message is simple going forward.

Keep doing what you’re doing and stay confident, no matter what.

“You gotta be the same way when you win and when you lose,” senior Isaac Likekele said. “This can either tear us down or it can fuel us. I believe the young guys are gonna respond well and it’s gonna fuel us for Sunday.”

sports.ed@ocolly.com