No. 10 Oklahoma St. 78, No. 9 Kansas 75
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)—The first day of Eddie Sutton’s 70th year will produce a coaching matchup for the ages.
Joey Graham scored 25 points Saturday, four on free throws in the final 41.4 seconds, to mark Sutton’s 69th birthday Saturday with a 78-75 victory over No. 9 Kansas in the Big 12 semifinals.
In the Big 12 title game on Sunday it’ll be Sutton, with 778 victories, against Texas Tech’s Bob Knight, who’s won 852 games in his Hall of Fame career.
“I have had a lot of disappointments on my birthday,” said Sutton, who was serenaded by fans’ shouts of, “Happy birthday,” as he disappeared into the Kemper Arena tunnel.
“Today is not one of those days. I had a good 69th.”
The No. 10 Cowboys shot 57 percent in the second half to the 64 percent of Kansas, which got 30 points from Wayne Simien, the Big 12 player of the year.
“It’s tough when the Big 12 tournament is your goal as a freshman and you don’t get a chance to cut down the nets,” said the 6-foot-8 senior.
Graham, who set a Big 12 record this season by hitting 39 foul shots in a row, sank two to give the Cowboys a three-point lead with 10 seconds left. Then Alex Galindo missed a long 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“It was a set play,” said Aaron Miles, the senior point guard for Kansas (23-6). “I knew they would be on J.R. (Giddens) tight. Galindo got the shot but it didn’t go in.”
Besides the right to meet Texas Tech in the title game, both teams may have been playing for the right to go to Oklahoma City next week in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. It’s the closest first-round site for either school and an easy drive for fans.
“I would be disappointed if we don’t go to Oklahoma City,” Sutton said. “We have gone East 11 of the last 12 times.”
Kansas coach Bill Self, an Oklahoma native, was still hopeful.
“We should both be there,” he said. “But whether or not it plays out that way I don’t know because they might put (Oklahoma) there, too. I don’t think they’ll put all three of us there.”
The Cowboys (23-6) missed 12 of their first 14 shots but then got hot and took the lead for good when Daniel Bobik stole the ball on Kansas’ end of the court and drove in for a layup that made it 60-59.
JamesOn Curry had 12 points for the Cowboys and John Lucas, Bobik and Ivan McFarlin each had 11.
Graham, fouled deliberately with 41.4 seconds left, hit both foul shots for a 75-70 lead and then Simien, the Big 12 player of the year, answered with his soft, feathery hook shot and shaved the lead back to three.
“This is what college basketball is all about,” said Graham. “Just getting the opportunity to come out and play is wonderful.”
Lucas, fouled with 22.8 seconds to go, hit one of two and the Cowboys led 76-72 until Giddens sank the Jayhawks’ fifth straight 3-pointer.
With 11.8 seconds to go and a one-point lead, the Cowboys inbounded the ball to Graham, who was fouled immediately.
The Jayhawks, who played for the second straight day without injured guard Keith Langford, their second-leading scorer, shot 55 percent to 49 percent for Oklahoma State. But the Cowboys held a commanding 32-27 rebounding edge.
Michael Lee, starting in place of Langford, had 14 points and Giddens had 11.
Self said Langford, who has been hobbled by an ankle injury and a stomach virus, would have played on Sunday.
“This (the conference tournament) is important. No doubt about that,” Self said. “But this isn’t as important as next week. Anything that gets you better prepared next week is the most important thing.”
Lucas, who hit his first nine shots at Kansas two weeks ago, was only 2-for-6 in the first half but his driving layup with 1:42 to go helped the Cowboys grab a 30-29 halftime lead.
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