It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.
All of it happened inside Gallagher-Iba Arena in front of a small home crowd Wednesday night.
Oklahoma State jumped out to a quick start, hitting a barrage of long-range shots. After the Cowboys cooled off before halftime, Austin Peay rallied and had the lead down to single digits for a handful of minutes in the second half.
In the end, OSU made enough plays down the stretch to earn another home victory. The Cowboys beat Austin Peay, 79-63, on a night that was less than appetizing to first-year coach Mike Boynton.
“They obviously gave us some problems in some areas tonight, but I’m proud of our guys for responding and finding a way to be efficient enough offensively at the end, and to get enough stops to finish the game and get out of here with a double-digit victory,” Boynton said.
The Cowboys led by 21 at halftime, but saw their lead continually shrink as their offense struggled to make buckets and the defense allowed too many easy shots. The Cowboys also found themselves in foul trouble as Austin Peay reached the free throw bonus before the midway point of the second half.
The Governors made 13 of 17 free throws in the second half after making 2 of 4 in the first 20 minutes. Those foul shots allowed the Governors to trim the lead to within eight points several times.
“Quite honesty, they were just more aggressive than we were in the second half,” Boynton said. “That’s on me. I didn’t necessarily take our foot off the gas. I wanted our guys to think about playing the game a different way. …
“… They got into a pretty good rhythm, partly because we were worried about our offense and not focused on defense. We started fouling too much, putting them on the free throw line. Then they got really comfortable out there.”
OSU led by nine with five minutes left following a Austin Peay 3-pointer, but the Cowboys used a 6-0 run to avoid a tight contest down the stretch. Senior Mitchell Solomon scored four of his eight points during the final 5:17.
Senior Kendall Smith followed a Solomon bucket with 1 of 2 free throws. Less than two minutes later, sophomore Thomas Dziagwa sank his third 3-pointer, bolstering the lead to 15 points with 2:10 remaining in the contest.
The lead never shrunk to smaller than 12 points during the final two minutes. Dziagwa and fellow sophomores Cameron McGriff and Lindy Waters each sank two free throws to lock up the win.
“Mitchell Solomon caught the ball in the paint a couple times at the end of the game and made some really nice moves,” Boynton said. “Those are things we need to build on.”
In the first half, the Cowboys hit 9 of 21 from long range. They began 4 of 6 from 3-point range as they built a 14-point advantage during the opening seven minutes.
The Cowboys continued to hit 3s for the remainder of the half, but they cooled off during the final minutes before the break. Waters, Dziagwa and senior Tavarius Shine each sank a pair of 3-pointers in the first 20 minutes. All three scored in double figures with 12, 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Senior Jeffrey Carroll finished with a pair of 3s as he led the Cowboys with 17 points.
“We were just playing unselfish and running,” Waters said. “We were getting good shots, and as a team that can shoot the ball, we’re going to shoot them.”
Although the Cowboys shot 42.9 percent from 3-point range in the first half, Boynton wanted his players to get different looks in the second half. He wanted higher percentage shots, where they might draw a foul and get to the foul line, because the long-range shots won’t fall every night.
“I was disappointed that we let that lead us into shooting 21 3s in a half,” Boynton said. “We shoot the ball well and we have a lot of guys who are capable of making shots. We can’t be a team that shoots 40 3s a game and that was my message at halftime, even with the big lead.
“I don’t want our guys to start thinking we’re going to be the (Golden State) Warriors because we’re not. In fact, I made a point that we’re going to get the ball inside some, and that’s on me because it stagnated our offense. It made us a little gun shy.”
The Cowboys will be back at home at 2 p.m. Sunday when they host Mississippi Valley State.