Kevin Durant came alive just in time to keep Texas going in the Big 12 tournament on Friday.
Now, Durant and the 15th-ranked Longhorns will have to deal with another upset-minded team Saturday when they face Oklahoma State in the semifinals in Oklahoma City.
Texas (23-8) trailed by as many as 20 points in Friday’s quarterfinals, but rallied to beat 11th-seeded Baylor 74-69 in the largest comeback in Big 12 tournament history. Durant, the conference’s player and freshman of the year, missed his first 12 shots, but finished with 29 points and 13 rebounds for the third-seeded Longhorns.
“He just wasn’t very good,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said of Durant’s play in the first half. “I don’t know if it was tentative or whatever.
“But he was pretty good in the second half.”
Durant led the Big 12 with 25.1 points and 11.4 rebounds per game during the regular season and scored 30 or more points nine times. On Friday, he set a school record for points in a half in a Big 12 game with 24 after the break and came just one point shy of the conference record for points in a half.
“I wasn’t playing like the player I am, he said. “I was settling for jump shots, and I wasn’t helping my teammates on defense. In the second half … I was just being more aggressive, going toward the basket.
“I think I went to the line 12 times today, so that was a plus. Just going at their big men and their guards, and we did a good job.”
Oklahoma State (21-11), meanwhile, advanced to the semifinals with Friday’s 57-56 win over No. 7 Texas A&M. Mario Boggan scored with 11.5 seconds left for the winning points, the fourth time he has put the Cowboys ahead in the final minute this season.
“It’s not unbelievable if it keeps on happening,” said Boggan, who had 11 points and leads the team with 19.2 per game.
The Cowboys, who beat Nebraska 54-39 on Thursday to reach the quarterfinals, dropped eight of their last 10 regular-season games to fall out of the top 10 in the rankings. They will likely need to win the conference tournament in order to reach the NCAAs.
“Now it is crunch time, your back against the wall. We lose this game, there is no more games. It’s back to Stillwater on the bus,” said JamesOn Curry, who had nine points before fouling out with 1:04 to play.
Oklahoma State has won six straight at the Ford Center since a loss there against Gonzaga on Dec. 28, 2004.
“Like Coach Sutton said, the great thing about basketball, you can always redeem yourself when you have conference tournaments,” said David Monds, who also had 11 points. “I feel like we were a wounded animal. We came out fighting. We’ve got two wins to get to our goal.”
The Longhorns, who received a first-round bye in the tournament, have won seven of their last eight games. They have now reached the semifinals of the Big 12 tournament in eight of their 11 appearances in the event and have been in the finals three times (2001, 2004, 2006) without ever winning a title.
The Cowboys are in the semifinals for the fifth time and have reached three championship games, winning the title in 2004 and 2005.
Oklahoma State and Texas split their two meetings this season, including the Cowboys’ 105-103 triple-overtime victory in Stillwater on Jan. 16 in which Durant had 37 points and 12 rebounds but was eclipsed by Boggan, who countered with 37 points, 20 rebounds and the game-winning 3-pointer with 3.2 seconds to play.