NORMAN — Michael Cobbins hobbled alone up the tunnel exiting Lloyd Noble Center on Monday night, a crutch under each arm, bracing his climb up the incline toward the team bus waiting outside.
And after Oklahoma State's 88-76 Bedlam loss, there was a sense that the Cowboys' season — without the injured Cobbins — is beginning to resemble an incline.
“Mike's not coming back,” OSU guard Markel Brown said somewhat defiantly.
The Cowboys know it.
Have always known it.
“We knew that already,” said OSU coach Travis Ford, “but that's part of it.”
But did they know they'd miss him so much? And for so long?
Since the starting post man went down just before Big 12 play, the Cowboys have found themselves in repeated uphill battles, winning some, yet sitting at 4-3 now in the conference, hardly the start of a league cofavorite, the status applied to this squad in the preseason.
Of OSU's four wins, only TCU came comfortably. Otherwise, the Cowboys have been forced to grind, even against West Virginia — twice.
And foul trouble has been a recurring theme, with players sliding into unfamiliar roles to help offset the void of Cobbins, who impacted games with his defense and athleticism around the rim.
Against OU, Marcus Smart, again, found himself in early foul woes, limited to just six minutes in the first half. Le'Bryan Nash, who started off defending Sooner big man Ryan Spangler, played but eight first-half minutes and 17 overall before fouling out.
Kamari Murphy, Cobbins' replacement, fouled out with four points and nine rebounds. Even little Stevie Clark fouled out, needing just 11 minutes to accumulate his five personals.
“We've just got to go out there and play hard,” Brown said. “Guys are playing out of position. Kamari is playing the five, Le'Bryan is playing the four. We've just got to go out there and give it all we've got. We're all we've got on this team.