No. 8 Kansas slips past No. 4 Oklahoma State 81-79

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LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP)—Play this one in the Final Four and it’s an instant classic, a game that lives forever.

Instead, it will go down in the memories of everyone who coached, played or witnessed it as one of the greatest college basketball games they ever experienced.

That No. 8 Kansas finally emerged with an 81-79 victory over No. 4 Oklahoma State on Sunday seemed almost an afterthought. With the Big 12 championship on the line, as well as a high NCAA seed, the old rivals combined to shoot 62 percent from the floor and played almost flawlessly in key stretches throughout the afternoon.

Kansas forward Wayne Simien, a leading candidate for Big 12 player of the year, had perhaps his greatest game. He scored a career-best 32 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and broke the school record by making 34 free throws in a row.

Oklahoma State’s John Lucas, last season’s Big 12 player of the year, made his first nine shots, including four 3-pointers.

There was a time in the second half when Kansas was shooting 70 percent but still trailed by a point after Oklahoma State hit two buckets within 21 seconds.

“This was a great ballgame,” Lucas said. “One of the best ballgames all year.”

Kansas shot 66 percent from the field and Oklahoma State hit 59 percent.

Aaron Miles hit a running layup with 37 seconds to go for the Jayhawks (21-4, 11-3), who have a one-game lead over Oklahoma State (20-5, 10-4) and No. 22 Oklahoma with two games to play.

“Certainly, for me, it was an honor to coach in this game,” Kansas’ Bill Self said. “This will go down as one of the great ones to ever be played in this building.”

The loss for Oklahoma State probably means coach Eddie Sutton will end his career without ever leading the Cowboys to victory in Allen Fieldhouse. But the fact his Cowboys are 0-11 here hardly seemed to bother the man with 775 career wins.

“What a great college basketball game,” Sutton said. “When both teams play like that, it is a shame that one has to lose. If we both played like that, we would beat a lot of people. This was a good game even though we lost. It was still a great game for us.”

Lucas’ first miss came with 1:31 to go and the game tied at 78. With 37 seconds left, Miles, the Big 12 assists leader, scored the go-ahead basket for an 80-78 lead.

“Christian (Moody) did a good job setting a screen,” Miles said. “Dub (Simien) cleared out the lane and I hit the shot.”

Oklahoma State freshman JamesOn Curry was fouled by Moody and went to the line with 25 seconds left. He made the second free throw to make it a one-point game. Miles was fouled with 19 seconds to go and he hit the second for the 81-79 lead.

After dribbling between the circle for a few seconds, Lucas launched a 3-point attempt that hit the rim.

“When it left his hand, it was like it was in slow motion,” Simien said. “I thought he was going to make it. He seemed like he couldn’t miss all day long.”

Lucas, last season’s Big 12 player of the year, had 22 points while Joey Graham added 19 and Curry 15.

Keith Langford had 14 points and Miles added 13 for Kansas.

After last Monday’s loss at Oklahoma, the Kansas players declared themselves off-limits to the media and Self confiscated all their cell phones.

“I don’t know if that helped them at all,” Self said. “But if they think it did.”

Graham agreed the high shooting percentages were a result of good offense, not bad defense.

“We both played our tails off,” he said. “We played a good game and fought till the end. We were really going at it.”

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