STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — In their final game of what has been an obstacle-filled season, Oklahoma State pulled out an 85-77 victory over West Virginia Saturday.
When the game was over, OSU coach Mike Boynton addressed the fans at Gallagher-Iba Arena and told them, despite not having the season they wanted, one day they will be hosting a banner in the rafters.
When junior guard Lindy Waters was told what his coach said, his response was "next season."
That is the confidence Oklahoma State has been playing with the past month despite losing three members of their basketball team for disciplinary reasons in January.
"I just remember Jan. 17, because it was my birthday and I was here holding tryouts," Boynton said. "On that date, everybody is telling our team it's over. Go do something else and we'll see you next year. I'm sitting in front of them and telling them, 'guys, we can still get the job done.' At some point, they started to believe that." With only a seven-man rotation and a group of walk-ons, the Cowboys have taken teams such as Texas Tech and Kansas to the wire before losing. But they didn't allow that to happen against the Mountaineers.
WVU's Lamont West drained a 30-footer to cut Oklahoma State's lead to 76-74 with 2:59 left in the game. But Waters came right back and hit his own 3-pointer in front of the Cowboy's bench.
WVU had a chance at a layup, but Yor Anei blocked fellow freshman center Derek Culver's attempt. It was his eighth blocked shot of the game.
"I try to block everything," Anei said. "It just felt like normal, natural instincts."
Anei then sprinted down court and caught an alley-oop pass and dunked to give OSU an 81-74 advantage.
After a pair of free throws from OSU's Isaac Likekele, WVU's Jermaine Haley hit a 3-pointer. Oklahoma State's Cameron McGriff missed a free throw and WVU got the board.
However, Culver came up short on a layup attempt and Likekele put the game away with a pair of free throws.
Waters scored 19 points to lead five players in double-figure scoring as OSU pushed its record to 12-19 on the season and 5-13 in the Big 12.
To go with his freshman record of eight blocked shots, Anei scored 16 points and grabbed six rebounds while Thomas Dziagwa added 15 points.
The Mountaineers were led by Culver, West and Haley with 16 points each as WVU dropped to 12-19 and 4-14 in conference.
Culver added 21 rebounds, including six on the offensive end.
"I don't know who is better," WVU coach Bob Huggins said when he was asked if Culver was the best freshman in the Big 12. "I don't know if anybody is better."
With both teams sitting at the bottom of the conference standings, they were also playing for seeding in the upcoming Big 12 Tournament March 13-16 in Kansas City. With the win, Oklahoma State locked itself into the ninth seed and will take on TCU in the opener. West Virginia will face No. 7 seed Oklahoma.
"I don't think anybody is excited about playing us," Huggins said.
Boynton also likes his team's chances when they head to Kansas City for the conference tournament because of how his squad has responded to adversity.
"We know we are a team that has to play well as a unit. The whole is better than the parts in a lot of ways," Boynton said. "So when we have everybody doing what they do well for our team, then we have a chance. We think we can play with, and on most nights be really competitive, with anybody. We've shown that in the last two weeks. The response from this group has been inspiring to me."