No. 15 Texas 69, Oklahoma State 64
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)—Kevin Durant already has put together the most impressive freshman season in Big 12 history. With one more victory, it’ll be a championship season, too.
Durant had 26 points and hit the decisive 3-pointer in the final minute to help No. 15 Texas hold off the Cowboys 69-64 Saturday in a Big 12 semifinal.
Texas will play No. 2 Kansas on Sunday for the tournament title. The Longhorns lost 90-86 at Kansas on March 3 in the teams’ regular-season meeting.
“Oklahoma State doesn’t give you much,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said. “You earn what you get. They did a really good job on Kevin. He was a little tired. … (but) when it counted, he made the big one.”
Texas (24-8) took the rubber match in a season series with Oklahoma State that included a triple-overtime classic won by the Cowboys. Playing in front of a partisan Oklahoma State crowd at the Ford Center, Texas also dealt the Cowboys their first loss in seven games in the building.
Oklahoma State, ranked as high as ninth this season before slumping, likely dropped out of NCAA tournament consideration with the loss, the Cowboys’ first of the season in the 12 games in which all of their scholarship players were available.
Oklahoma State (22-12) finished 6-10 in league play and did not win a true road game, although the Cowboys were 7-2 on neutral courts.
Saturday’s game was the fifth for Oklahoma State in eight days, as they had to play a makeup game with Nebraska on Monday before the Big 12 tournament started Thursday. Oklahoma State coach Sean Sutton said he protested the date of the makeup game, which he said “put two teams at a competitive disadvantage this week.”
The Cowboys beat Nebraska on Thursday and No. 7 Texas A&M on Friday to reach the semifinals.
“If you are asking me ‘Do I think we’re one of the best 34 at-large teams right now?’ I would say yes,” Sutton said.
“(This is) the only game we have lost all season long where we have had all our players and this is a game that really came down to one possession. Best player in the country made a great shot and he won the game for their team. Now, does that mean we will get in? I don’t know.”
The Cowboys beat Texas 105-103 on Jan. 16, as Mario Boggan and Durant staged a duel, each scoring 37 points and Boggan scoring the game-winner for Oklahoma State. In the teams’ second meeting, in Austin, Texas, on Feb. 12, the Longhorns won in a rout, 83-54.
Saturday’s game fell somewhere in between, but with a dramatic finish. Oklahoma State rallied from a 10-point second-half deficit to tie the game at 61 on a basket by JamesOn Curry with 1:26 left.
Texas’ D.J. Augustin missed at the other end, but Damion James tipped out the rebound to Durant, who made a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 46.3 seconds left.
“Damion did a great job at tipping the ball out to me for an offensive rebound and I just pulled up,” Durant said. “I mean, if I would have missed it, it would have been a bad shot, but I am glad I made it.”
Oklahoma State point guard Byron Eaton threw the ball away on the Cowboys’ subsequent possession, and A.J. Abrams and James combined to go 5-for-6 from the free-throw line in the final 26.1 seconds to seal the win for Texas.
“We probably came off the throttle a little bit too soon,” Barnes said. “We wanted to run, and I think around the 7 1/2 -minute mark we got into a grind with it.”
Curry led Oklahoma State with 24 points and Boggan added 21, but the Cowboys were unable to find a third offensive option, as no other player scored more than four. One player who had provided an offensive spark at different points of the season, Terrel Harris, had three points and fouled out with 7:47 left.
“I think we still played hard,” Curry said. “The only thing is it took too late in the season for us to play this hard. If we were playing this hard defensively and collectively as a whole early on in the conference, we wouldn’t be in this situation.”
Durant struggled in the first half in the Longhorns’ quarterfinal win over Baylor, missing his first 12 shots before recovering to finish with 29 points.
Durant made only one of his first four shots Saturday, but he quickly settled in and scored the Longhorns’ first 13 points, the last two on a one-handed dunk following a baseline drive.
Still, the Cowboys led most of the way until Texas closed the half on a 10-0 run than included a three-point play and a 3-pointer by Durant. Two free throws by Abrams with 0.4 seconds left gave Texas a 31-25 lead.
Abrams finished with 20 points, while Augustin added 15 points, six assists and three steals.