DALLAS (AP)—They missed seven free throws down the stretch, had a player go out with blood gushing over his right eye and got away with leaving two defenders on the ground as time expired.
There wasn’t much that went according to form for No. 17 Kansas, except the result—a victory over Oklahoma State that sends the Jayhawks into the semifinals of the Big 12 tournament.
Kansas won 63-62 Friday night in a game they pretty much dominated, but couldn’t put away. The failure to do so almost caught up to the Jayhawks as the Cowboys got a 3-pointer to spin in with 1.3 seconds left, then might’ve deserved free throws after two players fell while trying to defend the ensuing inbounds pass.
There was no whistle, though, so Kansas (22-8) won for the 13th time in 14 games.
“Two guys fell down,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “I don’t believe for a second that it was a charge.”
“A judgment call,” said Cowboys coach Sean Sutton, who saw the play develop right in front of him.
Kansas advances to a semifinal game Saturday against the winner of the Oklahoma-Nebraska quarterfinal later Friday night.
Oklahoma State (17-15) ended its two-year reign as tournament champions. As the seventh seed, the Cowboys weren’t expected to make it three in a row, and they’re not expected to make the NCAA field, either, ending an eight-year streak.
This quarterfinal between longtime adversaries was physical, which made play choppy. The pace was broken up further by two long officials’ caucuses, the second a video review of a 3-pointer by the Cowboys with 19.8 seconds left.
The teams combined for 40 turnovers and 40 free throws. While the turnovers were split 22-18 (Oklahoma State made more), Kansas went to the line 30 times to only 10 for the Cowboys. As if trying to even things out, the Jayhawks missed 12, including a pair by senior Jeff Hawkins with 7 seconds left that would’ve iced the victory.
“We just tried to match the intensity they were bringing,” said Kansas freshman Mario Chalmers, who scored 15 points, including what proved to be the game-winners—a pair of free throws after being fouled waiting for an inbounds pass, the exact scenario of the surprising non-call at the end.
Perhaps the best example of how the teams slogged through this one was the fact Kansas held Oklahoma State scoreless over an 8-minute stretch in the second half, forcing seven missed shots and seven turnovers, yet scored only nine points in that span.
“In my opinion, they are the best defensive team that we have played all year long,” Sutton said.
Sasha Kaun led the Jayhawks with 16 points, his most since mid-December, but was 4-of-8 from the line and didn’t play much at the end because of his poor foul shooting.
Russell Robinson had eight assists, seven steals, five points and a handful of stitches to close the gash that opened when he collided with Oklahoma State’s JamesOn Curry. He returned a few minutes later and threw a nifty alley-oop pass that seemed like it might spark the Jayhawks, but of course didn’t.
Byron Eaton led Oklahoma State with 18 points. He was 5-of-6 on 3-pointers, including the one that made things so interesting at the end. Curry added 17.
Mario Boggan and Torre Johnson, who were a combined 16-of-19 for 43 points in the opening round, were 5-of-17 for 14 points for the Cowboys.
The end of the first half was a good indication of how weird the second half was going to be, as the teams traded runs of 13-2, 11-2 and 7-0. The Jayhawks came out ahead by nine, then the Cowboys started the second half strong and went ahead 35-34, only to fall into their long funk.
Kansas went through a stretch of missing four straight shots and three free throws, with a turnover mixed in, starting with about 4 minutes left—yet Oklahoma State didn’t get a single point out of it.
The Cowboys ended the season 4-5 after coach Eddie Sutton’s traffic accident on Feb. 10 that led to a medical leave of absence and much more fallout.
A charge of aggravated drunk driving has him planning to seek alcohol rehabilitation once he recovers from back surgery and there are questions about whether he’ll return next season. His son coached the team in his place and already has a contract to replace his dad whenever he retires. The 69-year-old Sutton, who still gets credit for wins and losses, has 798 victories.
“Hopefully we can still get (800) this year if we make it to the NIT,” Eaton said.