NORMAN — Bedlam basketball was tied at 48 midway through the second half when the Oklahoma State Cowboys committed four straight turnovers. The first of those came when OU's Nate Carter stole the ball from a careless, but usually tough, Mario Boggan, leading to a dunk that ignited an 8-0 run. OU led 59-56 when OSU's Terrel Harris stepped to the foul line with 2:47 left in the game. Harris is an 87-percent foul shooter. Seemed anybody's game until Harris launched clang one and clang two. The Sooners beat the Cowboys 67-60 Wednesday night at Lloyd Noble Center and left State fragile. Fragile and tired and reeling. OSU lost because its best foul shooters failed to make foul shots, and its toughest players weren't tough down the stretch. A Cowboy team that once was in the top-10 now is headed for the oblivion of others receiving votes. A Cowboy team that once seemed a worthy Big 12 title contender now is in sixth place, a game ahead of eighth-place Nebraska. A Cowboy team once destined for a high NCAA seed now must scramble to make sure it gets invited to the madness. Don't look now, but OSU hasn't played a decent game since December, other than the triple-overtime classic against Texas. The 18-5 Cowboys are 4-4 in the league and in desperate need of not only a victory, but a sliver of hope that they can recapture the pre-Christmas magic that made them a charmed team. Those Cowboys won close games and played 40 minutes to the metal. These Cowboys are stuck in neutral at the opening tip, and nobody seems to know why. "I have no idea,” said OSU veteran JamesOn Curry. "This team doesn't have enough depth to get a deficit.” Playing only seven players, the Cowboys do not have great roster options. They need an earlier wakeup call. They scored 20 first-half points against OU, marking the sixth half in their last nine in which OSU scored fewer than 30 points. State made up for it in the second half, scoring on its first 10 possessions and scoring 20 points in the first seven minutes. OSU coach Sean Sutton called it playing with "more of a sense of urgency” in the second half, but the time for urgency is at opening tip. Hard to believe, but the Cowboys could squander all the plums from their 15-1 start. OSU is not an automatic for the NCAAs. Keep sputtering around, especially on the road; keep languishing in the middle of the Big 12 pack, and the NCAA will move on to fresher squads. "If you want to make the NCAA Tournament, you gotta win some road games,” Sutton said. "We dug ourselves a hole. You expend a lot of energy, trying to get back in the game.” This game was at least encouraging for OSU. The Cowboys played the Sooners even. Both teams shot 44 percent from the field. OSU committed four more turnovers but had five more offensive rebounds. But this game went the Sooners' way because of foul shooting. OU was 16 of 19; OSU was 5 of 14 and couldn't even blame alum Doug Gottlieb, who was in the house calling the game on the Big 12 network but bricked none of the foul shots. Harris was 1-of-4, Curry and point guard Byron Eaton both 1-of-3. When your best foul shooters miss foul shots, what other verdict can there be besides fatigue, be it mental or physical. More fatigue evidence. Sutton had to rest Eaton for moments in the second half. Eaton vs. Austin Johnson and Chris Walker was the game's biggest mismatch, but Eaton played only 29 minutes. If he is able to play 39 minutes, OSU probably wins. But Eaton's shape remains a question. Curry bristled at the suggestion that these Cowboys are tired, but they seem awfully close to being worn out. When OSU found the energy to play freewheeling, which it did the first 10 minutes of the second half, the Sooners were in serious trouble. But the Cowboys failed to sustain that kind of attack and withered down the stretch. Without an energy boost, this OSU basketball season could do the same.
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