Nebraska 74, No. 4 Oklahoma St. 67
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP)—Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton had no difficulty assessing his fourth-ranked Cowboys’ performance in a 74-67 loss to Nebraska on Tuesday night.
“I told the squad this ranks as one of the 10 worst performances of any team I’ve had that’s any good,” Sutton said. “It was just a bad game, and it came at a bad time.”
Not only did the loss drop the Cowboys into a tie with No. 8 Kansas atop the Big 12 standings, it could damage their hopes of a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Oklahoma State is at Kansas on Sunday.
Joe McCray scored 17 of his 22 points in the second half and Aleks Maric added a career-high 15 to lead Nebraska to its first win over a Top Five opponent since a 98-91 victory over No. 3 Missouri in the 1994 Big Eight tournament. It was Nebraska’s first win in 20 games against Top Ten opponents.
“We needed a great, great effort to have a chance to win,” Nebraska coach Barry Collier said. “Our guys believed they could do that, and four or five minutes at a time we came at them.”
Oklahoma State, which averaged 82 points in winning its last six games by an average of 15, was held under 70 points for only the fourth time this season.
The Cowboys (20-4, 10-3 Big 12) turned in a sloppy effort that saw them commit 19 turnovers and go eight straight possessions without scoring to start the second half.
The Huskers (12-12, 5-8) used a 12-0 run from a 32-32 halftime tie to break the game open and the Cowboys never got closer than the final margin.
Nebraska’s biggest victory in Collier’s five years came on the same day a columnist for the Omaha World-Herald, the state’s largest newspaper, called for his firing.
“We don’t pay a lot of attention to that,” Collier said.
Sutton said he’s well aware of the heat Collier has been taking and that if he had to lose to one team in the Big 12, he’s glad it was Nebraska.
“They’ve had a tough season, and they are a better ballclub than their record would indicate,” Sutton said. “Barry is a very, very good coach. I hope these people get off his case and start showing him some appreciation.”
After the buzzer, students from both end zones stormed the court. Collier and his players then waved their hands in the air as if they were directing the pep band in a rendition of “There Is No Place Like Nebraska.”
The players wound their way through a gauntlet of students, high-fiving them as they headed to the locker room.
John Lucas led Oklahoma State with 20 points. Joey Graham, the Big 12’s second-leading scorer, was held to 12 before fouling out in the final minute.
“We wanted to try to pay special attention to Joey Graham, who we think is an NBA first-rounder for sure and probably a lottery pick,” Collier said. “He had his way with us last year. We also had to keep John Lucas under wraps.”
Freshman JamesOn Curry, averaging 14.3 points since joining the Cowboys’ starting lineup seven games ago, was held to seven points, two in the second half.
The Huskers used the 12-0 run to go ahead 44-32. Maric scored twice in a row before John Turek highlighted the spurt with a big dunk off a pass from Jake Muhleisen.
Oklahoma State didn’t score for the opening 6:16 of the second half until Graham bulled his way in for a layup.
After Terrence Crawford got the Cowboys within 44-36, McCray hit a 3-pointer and Corey Simms hit a jumper for the Huskers’ biggest lead, 49-36.
Nebraska played to the halftime tie despite going 6:35 without a field goal. The Huskers capitalized on 12 turnovers in the first half, converting them into 17 points.
Two 3s by Lucas and another by Daniel Bobik keyed a 13-0 run that gave the Cowboys an 18-7 lead.
“It was right there, and we didn’t seize the moment,” Lucas said. “That’s what it boiled down to. We didn’t come out hungry. They stepped up, and we didn’t play hard.”
The Huskers chipped away and tied it at 28 on Marcus Neal Jr.’s 3 with 1:36 left.
“That’s why basketball is such a great sport,” Sutton said. “When you put on the sneakers and go out there and play hard, you can upset somebody like Nebraska did to us tonight.”