'It was a battle': How Oklahoma State held off Texas Tech for crucial Big 12 men's basketball win
STILLWATER — Standing near the goal, John-Michael Wright looked at his Oklahoma State teammates and let out the biggest scream of his career. He followed by high-fiving nearly every teammate on the bench.
Only 0.8 seconds remained and disaster was averted.
All thanks to a heads-up play by a sly veteran in the absolute biggest moment of the night.
“Back against the wall, tie game, just being able to make a play like that, you have to sometimes let out emotions,” Wright said.
It was warranted.
With time ticking away in a tie game that saw the Cowboys unable to hold another double-digit lead, Wright broke to the basket as Bryce Thompson shot a jump shot for the win.
No Texas Tech rebounders saw Wright.
So, the High Point transfer leapt as he caught the rebound and immediately put it off the glass as he was fouled. After the burst of emotion, he made the free throw.
And OSU secured a massive 71-68 win over the Red Raiders late Wednesday in Gallagher-Iba Arena for a fourth straight win.
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“I just went and didn’t think,” Wright said. “I didn’t even know I got fouled, honestly, until I saw everybody stop.”
On a night the Cowboys (15-9, 6-5 Big 12) were far from their best, they somehow found a way to win a third straight conference game to move above .500 while also taking a step to perhaps move off NCAA Tournament bubble projections into seeding talk.
“Just glad we won tonight,” OSU coach Mike Boynton said. “It was a battle. Every single one of these games is a fight until the end. Tonight, we were able to get out of here against a good team.
“They’re going to win more games in our league. They’re not going to finish 1-17. I’m pretty confident in that. I’m just glad it wasn’t tonight that they got their second.”
OSU was up and down offensively, but got a huge night from Thompson, who finished with 21 points. True freshman Quion Williams added 10 off the bench.
And Wright had eight points, six rebounds and an assist. It was his second straight game with clutch plays in the final minutes.
Here are three takeaways from the win:
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How did the Cowboys survive offensively?
The box score tells a different story than the final score.
OSU shot 21.7% from 3-point range. It made just 58.3% of its free throws.
Particularly in the second half, the Cowboys struggled. They made just 2 of 11 from deep and 14 of 24 from the foul line.
Those are generally not winning numbers.
OSU did find a way, though.
Each time Texas Tech got within a basket in the final seven minutes, the Cowboys usually found a way to respond.
Kalib Boone hit two free throws for a five-point lead with 6:33 left. Caleb Asberry made a layup to equal that lead with 4:38 left. Boone made two baskets over the next three minutes to respond to the Red Raiders.
Wright hit a foul shot with 32.2 seconds left for a two-point lead.
Of course, after De’Vion Harmon tied the game with 18.7 seconds left on a layup, Wright delivered the final blow.
Nothing fancy. But it worked.
“Just gotta find a way, man,” Thompson said. “It was a rough game but we just found a way. I think that’s where grit and toughness comes in and making those plays down the stretch that you need to.”
OSU did benefit from its defense, which forced 16 turnovers, and its rebounding.
The Cowboys had 12 second-chance points and out-rebounded the Red Raiders 36-31.
“We guarded for the most part and we rebounded,” Boynton said, “and that’s been a staple of who we are. And the reason that you try to put the emphasis on the defense is because sometimes you’re going to have those shooting nights. It’s the nature of the game.”
A tale of two halves for Bryce Thompson
Bryce Thompson was locked into a zone he hadn’t reached in three weeks.
The Cowboys’ junior guard made his first nine shots. He scored 21 points — two shy of his career high — in the process.
All well before halftime.
“I was just in a rhythm,” Thompson said. “I saw the first one go in and I kept going from there. I gotta give credit to my teammates for finding me and getting me open.”
But Thompson did not score in the second half. He missed all four shots he attempted. He also missed a pair of free throws.
He also finished with five turnovers, one shy of his total against TCU on Saturday.
“I gotta limit my turnovers,” Thompson said. “I have way too many turnovers.”
Texas Tech adjusted how it defended pick-and-rolls with Thompson, making it tough to get downhill.
In the opening half, Thompson had ways to get downhill to the basket, leading to good things.
He also fed off how Texas Tech defended Boone, who scored all nine of his points in the second half.
The Red Raiders spent the first half double and triple teaming Boone. His only shot attempt was a 3 before the buzzer.
“They were really conscious in our pick-and-rolls about not leaving Kalib and Moussa (Cisse),” Boynton said. “I asked him what he wanted me to tell you when you guys came in here and asked me about not scoring in the second half, and he didn’t give me a good answer. “So, I don’t have one on why he didn’t score in the second half.
“If he made his free throws, that would help, though.”
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Filling in for Avery Anderson III
OSU star senior guard Avery Anderson III underwent successful wrist surgery earlier Wednesday and was sitting courtside with his parents.
He had to be pleased to see the Cowboys’ effort in his absence.
It’s likely going to take a village to replace his output.
And a trio of reserve guards stepped up.
Quion Williams had up-and-down moments like a freshman but provided his most impactful minutes in Big 12 play, scoring 10 points in 17 minutes.
Veteran Chris Harris Jr. was active, getting to the basket a few times. He also came up with a steal and breakaway layup in the first half. He scored four points before leaving with a cramp in his left leg.
And a big surprise emerged.
True freshman walk-on Naz Brown played three minutes in the opening half. He even pitched in an assist.
“I thought that we may need to steal a few minutes tonight and I was proud of the way he handled it,” Boynton said. “He did phenomenal.”
Jacob Unruh covers college sports for The Oklahoman. You can send your story ideas to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @jacobunruh. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Oklahoma State Cowboys beat Texas Tech Red Raiders men's basketball