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.”
And they did it despite foul trouble that demanded some crazy combinations.
“We had lineup combinations out there we haven't even used in practice,” Ford said.
And they did it despite three starters on the bench at crunch time, two fouled out and one protected from his shaky foul shooting.
And they won at a place where it's almost impossible to win. Just ask all but one of those 103 previous teams to enter The Phog.
Ask Eddie Sutton, who never won as Cowboys coach at KU.
Now Ford has won there as both a player (with Missouri in 1990) and a coach.
“Everybody talks about Coach Ford can't win on the road,” Nash said. “This should get the monkey off his back. Kansas, it don't get no better than that.
“Hopefully people will get off Coach Ford's back, because he's a great coach. And hopefully, we'll keep getting wins on the road.”
Inside the program, OSU coaches and players felt they were close to getting over the hump. Last week might have confirmed it.
Twice, in wins over Iowa State and Kansas, the Cowboys made winning plays at crunch time that had previously been missing.
Of course, Smart is a major factor. The Pokes have had premium pieces, they've just needed someone to show them the way. Billed as a winner and proving it, Smart's toughness and grit, more than his special skills, is transforming this team.
You saw him on the floor, scrambling for loose balls Saturday. Did you see big man Philip Jurick, taking Smart's cue, on the floor, too?
Smart said it's only a start.
And that's the next step for the Cowboys — to build off the week that was.
But Saturday sure sniffed of a breakthrough moment.