STILLWATER — Markel Brown went up for an improbable shot, a second-overtime, turnaround jumper similar to the one he nailed one possession earlier.
Only this time, the ball clanged off the Gallagher-Iba Arena rim.
The magic was over. We’ll see if the same is true of OSU’s Big 12 title hopes.
The Cowboys lost to Kansas 68-67 Wednesday night in double overtime, more a battle of attrition than an instant classic, but either way, the verdict was the same.
For the third straight February home game, OSU flirted with last-second drama. You can only come out on top of such circumstances so many times.
The last-minute heroics the Cowboys owned against Baylor and OU went the Jayhawks’ way. Kansas, without a field goal in either overtime until Naadir Tharpe’s short jumper with 17 seconds left, retook command of the Big 12 race.
“Hard pill to swallow,” said Brown. “This game could have gone either way.”
Remarkable game, really. Not necessarily well played, though fiercely contested.
KU’s biggest lead was five. OSU’s biggest lead was three. The game had 16 ties and 23 lead changes. In 50 minutes of game action, in only 3:30 was it not a one-possession game.
You thought this might be one of the most memorable OSU-KU nights in Gallagher-Iba history. Like 1957, when Mel Wright hit the jumper that felled Wilt Chamberlain. Or 1995, when Big Country went for 33 points and 20 rebounds.
And when the Cowboys fought back from a four-point deficit in the final two minutes and had possession in a tie game in the final 30 seconds of regulation, this game seemed destined to join them.
But freshman phenom Marcus Smart dribbled out most of the shot clock, then was forced to take a running, fallaway shot that didn’t come close. Bad, bad possession, in a crucial part of the game.
OSU coach Travis Ford said the Cowboys had a variety of options set to go with six seconds left, but Ford credited KU center Jeff Withey with disrupting the play. Withey, hedging against a screen, kept Smart penned in.
“Give them credit,” Ford said. “Their defense was good.”
Strange game for Smart, whose chief contender for Big 12 player of the year, fellow freshman Ben McLemore of Kansas also had a rough night. McLemore made just three of 12 shots, for seven points.
But Smart made just two of 14 shots, though he finished with 16 points by willing himself to the foul line. Smart’s two baskets came in the final minutes of regulation, the latter a 3-pointer that tied it with 1:08 to go.
Smart fouled out with 2:24 left in the second overtime, on a dubious play — an offensive charge, with the Cowboys up one and early in the shot clock.
Better to not risk a fifth foul. Pull up and take a jumper or pull out and reset the offense, even on a night when the Cowboys shot just 32 percent from the field.
That meant when the Cowboys had another chance to win it, their playmaker was on the bench.
Brown, whose turnaround jumper had given OSU a 67-66 lead with 50 seconds left, was forced to try a similar tough shot, and when it missed, Kansas was back in the saddle of the Big 12 race.
“It was a down locker room,” Ford said. “They were disappointed. But we need to bounce back.”
Not many whistles went OSU’s way in the overtimes, but the Cowboys have only themselves to blame for the defeat.
OSU made just three of eight foul shots in the overtimes, while Kansas made nine of 12.
And the Cowboys couldn’t find the basket for much of the night. OSU made just four of 21 3-pointers.
Still, the Cowboys proved their toughness, even in defeat. Michael Cobbins was sensational, often battling 7-foot KU center Withey, despite giving away five or six inches. Cobbins had 13 rebounds and eight points.
And OSU took remarkably good care of the ball, with only nine turnovers in 50 minutes, and two of them were offensive fouls in the final overtime. But that’s small consolation for a team that had visions of a Big 12 title. The Cowboys would have been in command of the conference race with a victory and would have given their fans a night to remember.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.