Texas Beats Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State 91-86 for 2021 Big 12 Championship

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistMarch 14, 2021

Texas forward Jericho Sims (20) looks to pass while covered by Texas Tech Red forward Tyreek Smith (10) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the quarterfinal round of the Big 12 men's tournament in Kansas City, Mo., Thursday, March 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

The Texas Longhorns have won the Big 12 tournament for the first time in school history thanks to their 91-86 victory over the Oklahoma State Cowboys on Saturday.

The Longhorns advanced to the championship game for the first time since 2011 after Kansas had to withdraw from the tournament prior to Friday's semifinal due to a positive COVID-19 test within the program.

Oklahoma State had all sorts of momentum going into this matchup coming off an 83-74 win over No. 2 Baylor in the semifinal Friday.

Texas did play the Cowboys well during the regular season, with the Big 12 rivals splitting two games. Oklahoma State won the previous matchup 75-67 in double overtime on Feb. 6.

The turning point in the game came with 1:51 remaining. After Oklahoma State forced a turnover, Avery Anderson III's layup attempt slipped out of his hands, allowing Texas to maintain an 81-75 lead and get possession back.

Cade Cunningham started slow before turning things on in the second half. The star freshman finished with 29 points in the loss. 

Matt Coleman III was able to match Cunningham point for point. The Longhorns guard scored a game-high 30 points on 10-of-14 shooting in the win. 

Notable Game Stats

  • Matt Coleman III (UT): 30 points (10-14 FG)
  • Jericho Sims (UT): 21 points (8-11 FG), 14 rebounds, 3 steals
  • Kai Jones (UT): 13 points (5-8 FG), 5 rebounds
  • Cade Cunningham (OK State): 29 points (11-23 FG), 3 assists, 2 steals
  • Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe (OK State): 11 points (5-9 FG), 7 rebounds
  • Kalib Boone (OK State): 12 points (4-6 FG), 6 rebounds

Balanced Offense Carries Longhorns to Big 12 Title

Even though Oklahoma State looked like the better offensive team coming into this matchup, the Longhorns balanced attack carried them to a victory. 

Sims, Jones and Matt Coleman III were all in double-digits in scoring early in the second half. Sims caused all sorts of problems for the Cowboys, especially in the first half when he racked up nine points and seven rebounds. 

Jason McIntyre @jasonrmcintyre

Eye test: Texas *looks* like a Final 4 team. Guards, talent, size - they've got it all. Stats say something else. Jericho Sims picked a helluva time to have the GAME OF HIS LIFE against OK State

Wescott Eberts @SBN_Wescott

Texas shot 55.2 percent from the floor in the first half thanks to 18 points in the paint. Only eight three-point attempts as Jericho Sims and Kai Jones combined for 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting.

Texas was completely overpowering Oklahoma State in the first half. The Longhorns eventually built a 14-point lead with 90 seconds remaining before the intermission. They went into the break with a 43-33 lead thanks to Jones and Sims. 

If head coach Shaka Smart could have scripted the start of this game, it would have looked like this for Texas. 

Despite those good vibes early, Oklahoma State has been a second-half team in the Big 12 tournament. It averaged 45 points in the final 20 minutes of games against West Virginia and Baylor in the previous two days. 

Cedric Golden @CedGolden

Texas fans will tell you from first-hand experience that their team has struggled in the opening minutes of the second half of games after playing well early. And Cade Cunningham is much better in the second half of games. This will be a great finish.

The Cowboys looked to be in trouble coming out of the break when Oklahoma State went on a 17-7 run that cut the lead to 52-50 less than six minutes into the second half. 

Brock Cunningham and Coleman scored on back-to-back possessions to give Texas breathing room and to get momentum back on its side. 

After the Cowboys went on another run to get within 73-67 and less than five minutes remaining, they were dealt a big blow when Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe fouled out on Texas' next possession. 

Texas scored on three consecutive possessions following Moncrieffe's exit to extend its lead to eight points in the final three minutes. 

That wound up being enough for the Longhorns to hold off Oklahoma State's comeback attempt. The program can celebrate its first conference tournament title and an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament. 

Cowboys Can't Overcome Slow Start in Defeat

It's no secret that Oklahoma State's success hinges largely on Cunningham. That formula has worked wonderfully in the first two rounds of the tournament. He racked up 25 points in the Cowboys' come-from-behind win over Baylor on Friday. 

The championship game looked like it was going to be another romp for Oklahoma State based on the opening tipoff. 

ESPN @espn

Cade Cunningham ➡️ Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe They start the Big 12 championship with a bang. Watch now on ESPN 📺 https://t.co/wt6mTV2fzP

That would end up being the top highlight for the Cowboys early in the game. Cunningham looked completely off of his game with four points on 2-of-8 shooting and three fouls at the break. 

Things looked much better for Cunningham and Oklahoma State coming out of the intermission. He scored 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting in the second half and played an integral role in the Cowboys' comeback attempt early on. 

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

CADE CUNNINGHAM IS LOCKED IN. (via @OSUMBB) https://t.co/6Qj6b4AgPu

Bryan Fischer @BryanDFischer

And here I was thinking they were just going to show Cade Cunningham with an NBA Jam effect for his heat map. https://t.co/MfdSLDZbBE

As good as the offense looked after head coach Mike Boynton had time to make adjustments, the Cowboys defense was never able to find an answer for Texas. 

Oklahoma State actually had a better field-goal percentage than Texas (50.8 to 49.1), but the Longhorns made 15 more free throws than the Cowboys.

Despite the disappointing ending to their run in the conference tournament, the Cowboys' season will continue in the NCAA tournament next week. ESPN's Joe Lunardi bumped them up to a No. 2 seed in his most recent bracketology update before Saturday's game.

A win might have ensured the Cowboys end up on the No. 2 line, but they still figure to be no worse than a No. 3 when the field is announced on Sunday. 


What's Next?

Both teams will be included in the NCAA tournament field that will be announced Sunday at 6 p.m. ET.