Inside Allen Fieldhouse, at the entrance of the Cowboys dressing room, Oklahoma State media relations director Kevin Klintworth captured a telling postgame photo Saturday.
The snapshot found Cowboys players waiting to greet coach Travis Ford, embracing him in jubilation following OSU's stirring 85-80 upset at No. 2 Kansas.
Fitting, considering the major moment in this journey, which figures to get much more interesting going forward.
“This is just a start for us,” said Marcus Smart, the squad's driving force, even as a freshman.
They've been in this together, Ford and his players, battling to overcome injuries and inconsistency and a seeming inability to win on the road.
So Saturday's conquest at The Phog — where 102 of the previous 103 teams who entered lost — sniffed of a breakthrough moment for all involved.
Ford, a frequent target of critics, had his team prepared and they pulled off the plan, taking it to the Jayhawks with fearless passion and energy from the opening tip. The Cowboys sought to send a message that they came to play. And did.
“We had to come out, kind of punch them in the mouth and not let the crowd get into it,” said Markel Brown, first-half firestarter with 25 of his game-high 28 points setting the tone. “They have a great crowd, it's a great atmosphere. We had to come out and establish ourselves on the court.”
Said KU coach Bill Self: “It came down to a competitive game and they were more competitive.”
Kansas was due to respond, and did. The Jayhawks haven't won all those home games — and Big 12 titles — without a champion's mettle.
But even when the Jayhawks rallied to take a second-half lead, turning Allen Fieldhouse into the perilous pit it can be, the Cowboys didn't back down. They bowed up.
“We kept responding to every run they had,” said Le'Bryan Nash.
“A lot of teams come in here and get a lead but they can't close it,” Ford said. “We told our players at halftime not to be hesitant. I wanted them to fight, go after rebounds, take it to the basket.”