OSU's starting big men — center Philip Jurick and Kamari Murphy — were limited to six and three minutes, respectively, in the first half Saturday, due to foul trouble. Marcus Smart picked up his second and third fouls less than two minutes into the second half.
And the No. 22 Cowboys never seemed to be themselves, falling 73-67 at Kansas State.
“That really hurt us, because Philip's our one physical presence,” said OSU coach Travis Ford. “He can guard people one-on-one. And when Marcus got his third, it wasn't good. I thought it took our aggressiveness away a little, especially his, and that's what he excels on.
“I don't want to make any excuses, but that foul trouble took a little of our energy away and created a little hesitation.”
Maybe the game's start should have served a warning, as Murphy was called for his first four fouls two seconds in.
“I got in early foul trouble — since the tipoff,” Murphy said. “Just watching from the bench is always frustrating. As a freshman, I go through certain things that all freshmen go through. It's up to me to get through it.”
LOST AND FOUND: K-STATE'S MCGRUDER
Wildcats guard Rodney McGruder entered as his team's leading scorer (13.7 points per game) and a noted clutch player through the course of four seasons.
So he shouldn't have been a mystery for the Cowboys.
Maybe a 1-for-6 first half of shooting took him off the radar, but McGruder did his thing and more over the final 20 minutes, scoring 26 of his game-high 28 points.
“We lost him,” Smart said. “Our defensive matchups got lost. We switched a lot of screens and he just found open spots and knocked down some shots.”
And delivered a knockout blow to the Cowboys.
“I've got a lot of respect for McGruder,” said OSU guard Markel Brown. “He just took over the game, making timely 3s, getting to the paint, getting points off second-chance points. He just did what he was supposed to do for his team.”
UP NEXT: TCU
The Cowboys return home Wednesday night, facing Big 12 newcomer TCU.
Tip time is 7 p.m. at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
The Horned Frogs are 9-5 after dropping their conference debut against Texas Tech, 62-53, Saturday night in Fort Worth.
COWBOYS LOST WAY LATE
Despite being forced to play with a small lineup for much of Saturday's game, the Cowboys managed offensively by using their guards to slash and drive to the basket.
Late in the game, however, they got away from what was working, taking several ill-advised jumpers. OSU managed but one field goal the final 9:46 and none in the final three minutes.
“Looking back, I probably should have called some timeouts,” Ford said. “But the way we were scoring was off drives. And if you call timeouts, it allows the other team's defense to set up. I was hoping we'd drive the ball like we had. We were not scoring on sets.
“Hindsight is 20-20. If we'd won, I'd probably be sitting here saying, ‘I'm glad we didn't call timeouts.' But I wish we would have drove the ball.”