In a hard-fought double-overtime battle that may end up deciding the Big 12 regular-season title, No. 9 Kansas edged out No. 14 Oklahoma State 68-67 Wednesday night in Stillwater.
This contest also featured another chance for the Cowboys' Marcus Smart and the Jayhawks' Ben McLemore to go head-to-head. Both players have been among the most impressive freshmen in the country and are two of the most promising prospects for the 2013 NBA draft.
However, neither budding star got off to a productive start, leaving their teammates to pick up the slack on offense. Kansas center Jeff Withey chipped in eight points in the first half while Oklahoma State's Le'Bryan Nash and Markel Brown each had seven, and the two teams fought to a 26-26 stalemate in the opening 20 minutes.
In the second half, Travis Releford paced the Jayhawks offense and the team was able to maintain a slim lead for much of the game. Releford finished with 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting, while late free throws from Withey allowed the big man to finish with 17. McLemore finished with just seven points.
Brown led the Cowboys with 20 points, while Smart failed to record a field goal until hitting a three-pointer with just under a minute remaining to tie the game at 57-57. Smart, who finished with 16, was unable to hit a potential game-winner, but his late surge forced overtime.
Neither team was able to pull away in the extra time, and although Smart's full-court heave came remarkably close as time expired, another overtime was needed to settle this contest.
Naadir Tharpe's floater with 16 seconds left to play put Kansas up by a single point. The Cowboys had no timeouts and were unable to hit a shot before time expired.
It certainly wasn't pretty for the Jayhawks, but they were able to do just enough to get an extremely important road win.
ESPN Stats & Info let Cowboys fans know that their team had a difficult task in this contest:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Oklahoma State beat Kansas on February 2. The Cowboys haven't beaten Kansas twice in the regular season since 1983. #KUvsOKST2013-2-20 22:31:30
ESPN's NBA draft guru Chad Ford was thoroughly unimpressed with the two players he placed at the top of his latest prospect rankings:
Chad Ford @chadfordinsider
McLemore (No. 1) & Smart (No. 2) a combined 0-for-13 from field in 1st half. Ugh. Now you know why NBA guys are depressed about the draft2013-2-21 02:56:20
With two teams vying for a conference title, it's no surprise that the contest got heated. The Oklahoman's Anthony Slater took notice of both teams' willingness to scrap:
It took Ben McLemore 29:54 to get his first field goal of the contest, but what a field goal it was. The star shooting guard delivered an emphatic tip-dunk to prompt this response from CBS Sports' Jeff Borzello:
Jeff Borzello @jeffborzello
Alright then, Ben McLemore. Gracious.2013-2-21 03:39:26
OSU Basketball was understandably excited when Marcus Smart made his first field goal of the game to tie the contest with less than a minute to play:
Cowboy Basketball @OSUMBB
Withey misses, rebound #OKState…. Smart for three…. HE GOT IT!!!!!!! ONE MINUTE TO PLAY!2013-2-21 04:02:18
USA Today's Eric Prisbell deserves credit for calling this one early:
Smart fouled out in the second OT after recklessly driving to the basket and being called for a charge. It was a crucial moment in the game, but that did not stop CBS Sports' Doug Gottlieb from making a pun:
Doug Gottlieb @GottliebShow
That was not a #Smart play2013-2-21 04:41:14
And back to Slater, who said what we were all thinking:
Anthony Slater @anthonyVslater
KU-#OKstate. I'll take another one of those. How does the Big 12 tournament title game sound?2013-2-21 04:51:57
Kansas pulled level with Kansas State at 10-3 atop the Big 12 standings and improved to 22-4 overall. The Jayhawks will welcome TCU to Allen Fieldhouse Saturday afternoon.
Oklahoma State dropped to 9-4 in the Big 12 and 19-6 overall. The Cowboys will move on to play West Virginia Saturday in Morgantown.