STILLWATER — When Lindy Waters walked out of the Oklahoma State huddle and onto the court with 40 seconds left on Saturday, he had a lot on his mind.
He thought about the question Mitchell Solomon posed to his teammates in that timeout, as the Cowboys trailed 64-63. Solomon asked and preached, “who’s going to make the big play?”
He thought about the film session on Texas with the coaching staff, and coach Mike Boynton’s message that when the Longhorns need a big shot, point guard Matt Coleman will take it.
And he thought about what he would do if — and when — he was faced with a crucial decision: Would he leave his man (Dylan Osetkowski) to help a teammate in need?
“I just left him and did what I practice,” Waters said. “I took a charge.”
Coleman beat OSU point guard Brandon Averette and came barreling down the lane. But Waters recognized the play’s development quickly and got into position. When the two collided and the officials signaled an offensive foul on Coleman, the Gallagher-Iba Arena crowd exploded and Waters and his teammates celebrated on the court.
Less than a minute later, Oklahoma State won, 65-64. No play was bigger than Waters’.
For an OSU (12-5, 2-3 Big 12) team that heads to Baylor (11-6, 1-4) Monday at 8 p.m., the fact it was Waters absorbing that charge was nothing new.
The OSU sophomore has taken 11 charges in 16 games — the most of any Cowboy and a number that quite possibly would make a national leaderboard, if there were such a thing.
In Oklahoma State’s win against Florida State in December, Waters took two charges in a 25-second span.
Taking a charge is a skill not all players possess, but it’s one Waters says comes naturally. The 6-foot-6 guard can remember taking charges as far back as the third grade.
The keys to being a magnet for offensive fouls? Preparation, instincts and a love of contact.
“It starts right when their possession starts,” Waters said. “Right when they get the ball, you’ve just got to know where to be at all times. I’ve always been a help-first defense type of guy.”
Waters played football growing up, so he said he actually enjoys the contact that comes with holding your ground in front of a driving opponent.
He also said that for his skillset, it’s the best option.
“It’s easy, but it just takes — you have to have the right mindset,” Waters said. “Because I’m not the most athletic. I’m not Mohamed Bamba. I can’t block shots while standing on the floor.”
Waters’ stingy defense and willingness to sacrifice his body is exactly what Boynton is trying to instill into the Oklahoma State program.
After the Cowboys lost to Kansas State on Wednesday, one of the stats Boynton used to emphasize OSU’s lack of passion was the fact the Cowboys did not take a single charge. Oklahoma State’s defense intends to take opponents out of their offense, which often leads to dribble-drive situations.
Many times, a driving player has his head down.
Waters said taking charges is always one of Oklahoma State’s pregame goals, sometimes aiming for as many as four or five.
“If we want to win, we’ve got to be a team that gets every loose ball,” Boynton said. “We’ve got to be a team that takes multiple charges, or at least wins them.”
Waters’ charge Saturday was the second time this season an offensive foul late helped give Oklahoma State the win. Solomon — the one who pushed his teammates to make a winning play late after he fouled out against Texas — absorbed a charge in the final seconds of OSU’s one-point win against Florida State.
Averette said Waters’ play on Saturday saved him, because Coleman had gotten past the OSU point guard and had a path to the basket.
Though the Cowboys still had to find a way to score at the end, it also probably saved the game.
“It’s a really demoralizing play for the other team no matter what time of the game,” Waters said, “whether it’s right after tip or it’s the end of the game.”