STILLWATER, Okla. (AP)—The victory safely in hand, Joey Graham and John Lucas decided to celebrate Oklahoma State’s first Big 12 championship in style.
As the final seconds burned off the clock, Lucas suddenly stopped in the lane on a fast break and gently lofted the ball up to a soaring Graham who finished with one of his trademark thunderous dunks.
Graham’s slam gave him 20 points, and Lucas finished with 14 points and seven assists to help the eighth-ranked Cowboys claim a share of their first league title in 13 years with a 76-67 victory Monday night over No. 10 Texas.
“I just kind of wanted to seal it off with a kiss,” Graham said.
No one played a bigger role in Oklahoma State’s (23-3, 13-2) biggest win in almost a decade than its dynamic duo of transfers: Graham, a 6-foot-7 forward from Central Florida, and Lucas, a 5-11 point guard from Baylor.
The Cowboys earned the top seed in the conference tournament and their first league championship since the 1990-91 Big Eight title, coach Eddie Sutton’s first season back at his alma mater.
Oklahoma State still must beat lowly Texas A&M, winless in 14 league games, to win its first outright title since 1965.
The Longhorns (21-5, 12-3) dropped to second place in the Big 12 but are still assured of a first-round bye in the league tournament.
Jason Klotz led Texas with 19 points, and freshman P.J. Tucker added 14.
“It’s pretty disappointing,” Tucker said. “We’re sending our seniors off without a conference championship. We’ve got to keep playing, we’ve got the postseason ahead of us … we’ve got to move on.”
Sutton passed Kansas’ Phog Allen to move into ninth place on the all-time career coaching victories list with 747.
Even Sutton, notoriously nailed to his cushioned chair during most games, spent much of the night on his feet for this hotly contested showdown.
Hundreds of students camped outside of Gallagher-Iba Arena for two days, hoping to get a coveted seat for what amounted to the league’s regular-season title game. It was also a rematch of the thriller Jan. 24, when the Cowboys ended Texas’ 25-game home winning streak with a 72-67 victory.
Once inside, the raucous sellout crowd of 13,611 was fired up from the beginning and got louder as the final few seconds ticked off the clock. The fans roared after Graham’s final dunk of the night and streamed onto the court by the hundreds to celebrate the improbable league championship.
“They did something that I didn’t think would happen,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said. “I thought the winner of this league would have four or five losses.
“We didn’t lose the championship here, we lost it when they left Austin. They left us there and had a lot of confidence.”
Oklahoma State, picked to finish fifth in the Big 12 in preseason media and coaches’ polls, turned again and again to its prized transfers—Graham and Lucas—down the stretch.
Graham scored eight points—including a nice one-handed dunk—and Lucas scored his first basket of the game on a 3-pointer during a 15-3 run after halftime, helping the Cowboys to a 50-38 lead with 14:15 to play.
At that point, it looked as if the Cowboys might run away with the conference crown.
But Klotz, a 6-foot-9, 240-pound center, had his way under the basket, scoring eight straight points during one stretch in the second half to pull the Longhorns to 62-61 with 4:13 left.
From there, Graham and Lucas took turns hitting scoring clutch points: Graham scored an inside basket, Lucas hit a pair of free throws, Graham made a layup and Lucas hit another layup with 44.4 seconds left that put Oklahoma State up 71-67.
Ivan McFarlin followed that by chasing down Brandon Mouton and making a remarkable block on a breakaway layup—assuring Texas was through scoring for the night.
Tony Allen had 19 points and eight rebounds for the Cowboys.
“Lucas can drive to the basket and Joey Graham is playing phenomenal,” Klotz said. “There aren’t many teams out there that have guys like Oklahoma State does.”
Oklahoma State shot 64 percent in the second half, outrebounded the Longhorns 36-25 and put the clamps on Mouton, who came in averaging 22.8 points over the last five games.
Mouton was held to six points on 3-of-11 shooting.
Much of that tough defensive task was left to Allen, last year’s Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. Barnes thinks more accolades could be in store for the 6-4 senior guard this season.
“How people can’t be putting him as player of the year blows my mind,” Barnes said. “He is the guy who we had no answer for, the guy that no one in the league has an answer for. He is a terrific player and what he does defensively impresses me.”