STILLWATER — Markel Brown and Phil Forte spilled energy and guts all over the floor Saturday, doing everything they could to will their team to a Bedlam win.
Everything except make free throws.
Significantly short-handed, the Cowboys figured to need maximum effort and production from several in their starting five. And Brown and Forte mostly delivered, combining for 42 points, 12 rebounds, all six of Oklahoma State's 3-point buckets and repeated hustle plays in a 77-74 loss.
Yet in the end, there was one statistic left to lament most: 10 missed free throws.
The Cowboys made just 12-of-22 from the line. Forte and Brown, the team's top foul shooters, combined to go 8-of-14.
And Forte — the Big 12 leader in free throw percentage (92.5) who ranked sixth nationally in that category entering the game — also missed the front of two 1-and-1 tries, resulting in missed opportunities, if not more missed shots in a 1-for-4 day at the line.
Oh, and before this Bedlam setback, Forte hadn't missed from the line at Gallagher-Iba Arena … all season. And he'd made 41 straight at home dating back to last year.
“We didn't make our free throws,” Cowboys coach Travis Ford said afterward. “Free throws were a big part of it. It's big. Normally we make those.
“That's how it's going right now.”
It's going bad.
Six losses in a row bad, the program's worst stretch since Sean Sutton's final season as OSU coach in 2007-08. And now the Cowboys go on the road for the third time in four games, visiting Baylor Monday night.
“We've got to dig in,” Ford said. “We've got to bounce back. They're down. This is as down of a locker room that I've seen.
“We just need to keep our head up and understand that there is a lot of basketball left to be played.”
After being routed at Texas on Tuesday night, the Cowboys dug in and were determined, playing with energy from the outset and maintaining it throughout.
With Marcus Smart sitting the second game of his three-game suspension, OSU's roster limitations came into full view. Oklahoma owned a 34-1 advantage in bench scoring. Reserve guard Frank Booker scored 15 and pumped in four 3-pointers, while Tyler Neal added 13 points and five rebounds off the bench.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys reserve trio of Christien Sager, Leyton Hammonds and Mason Cox combined to provide 24 minutes, one point and no rebounds.
Still — and this is what makes this loss so painful, and so potentially damaging mentally heading to Waco — OSU was in it late.
Led it late, 65-60, with 3:47 to play.
But with their margin for error shrunken to nearly zero, the Cowboys made just enough mistakes to lose.
The Sooners got hot, firing in three 3-pointers in the final three minutes to spark the rally. Conversely, the Cowboys didn't get stops.
And then there was the free throw regret.
“I don't know,” Forte said when asked for an explanation on the struggle from the line. “We usually make our free throws.
“It's something that we usually take a lot of pride in. That's something that I think help cost us this game.”
Fatigue may have been a factor, with Brown and Forte and the other starters playing more and more minutes as the rotation has dwindled with the loss of Michael Cobbins to injury, Stevie Clark to discipline issues and now Smart.
“It can (play a factor), I guess,” Ford said. “Shouldn't though. Shouldn't.”
And the Cowboys can't allow it to be a factor with six Big 12 games remaining and their postseason hopes continually drifting.
“I'm thinking about winning,” Brown said. “It's my last Bedlam, we're on a losing streak … just trying to do everything I can do to help this win.
“Fell a little short at the end. It hurts, it hurts.”