Oklahoma State survives OT with Kansas on the way

The SportsXchange

STILLWATER, Okla. -- Oklahoma State didn't want their momentum to stall now, not against bitter rival Oklahoma.

And not with Kansas coming in Wednesday night for a battle for the top of the Big 12 standings.

It took repeated rallies and even an overtime on Saturday, but the No. 17-ranked Cowboys pushed their winning streak to seven games, outlasting the Sooners, 84-79, before a sellout crowd in Gallagher-Iba Arena.

With Marcus Smart and Le'Bryan Nash combining for 54 points, Oklahoma State improved to 19-5 overall, 9-3 in the conference, avenging an earlier loss to the Sooners and remaining in a tie for first place in the conference race.

Oh, and the Cowboys remained hot for Wednesday night's visit from the Jayhawks, a team they beat in Lawrence as the highlight of this surge, ending Kansas's 33-game home winning streak in the process.

"It's the top of the Big 12," Nash said. "We're sitting in first place right now. It'll be a big game. I love playing against Kansas.

I know we'll be ready for Kansas."

On Saturday, they were ready for the Sooners, unlike the first Bedlam meeting, an eventual 77-68 loss in Norman on Jan. 12, when the Cowboys got off to a sluggish start and never fully recovered.

Not that the rematch was ever easy.

The Sooners dropped to 16-8 and 7-5, falling two games off the pace of the Big 12 leaders.

Still, before a raucous road crowd, they answered an early shot from the Cowboys and played well throughout, with reserve guard Sam Grooms providing a spark off the bench with a career-high 18 points, one of four Oklahoma players in double figures.

Both teams owned big leads, with the Cowboys jumping out to a 19-8 margin to start the game. The Sooners also led by 11, 45-34, early in the second half.

But Oklahoma State used a spurt to pull close and the teams jockeyed for the lead the rest of the way.

"Tough loss for sure, but a really good basketball game," Sooners' coach Lon Kruger said. "Guys on both sides played their hearts out. I thought it was a big-time battle from start to finish. Guys on both teams made a lot of big-time plays."

Smart scored a career-high 28 points and Nash added 26, including 23 in the second half and seven in overtime. Nash played only nine minutes in the first half because of foul trouble.

"I decided I needed to stay in the game," Nash said of his second-half turnaround. "I got two early fouls, so I didn't play (much) the whole first half. So I tried to stay in the game and help this team win.

"That's the biggest thing for all us, winning. It can be ugly or it can be pretty, as long as we're winning."

Both teams had opportunities late in regulation, but Oklahoma's Romero Osby missed a hurried running jumper as the shot clock neared zero with six seconds remaining.

Following a timeout, Smart got an open look at a 3-pointer, but his shot at the buzzer clanged off the rim.

"We were still in high spirits," said Osby, who finished with 18 points and 15 rebounds. "We knew we still had a chance to win the game. We weren't down because we had been up for most of the game and we had to go to overtime.

"Usually that's the case with some teams. But we tried to stay together and stay poised."

Ultimately, the game flipped in the Cowboys favor in the final minute of overtime on two defensive plays.

First, Markel Brown worked a steal of the Sooners' Sam Grooms, leading to Michael Cobbins' layup that bumped the Cowboys' lead to 82-79.

On Oklahoma's next possession, Smart tied up Steven Pledger, with the possession arrow pointing Oklahoma State's way. Smart two free throws sealed the verdict.

"It felt like a classic game," Smart said. "This rivalry is very big and it's been going for years. We're just glad we came out with a victory.

"They came in with a lot of confidence and trying to win. They gave us a nice little shot, gave us all they had. But we just sustained it and let each other know, 'We're at home. We can't afford this loss. Let's pick it up.'"

The Cowboys seemed to grab control at the outset, jumping out to a 19-8 lead by the 11:49 mark. Three players hit 3-pointers during that spurt and Oklahoma State had the rhythm and pace in its favor.

But Oklahoma tightened its defense, turning the momentum, leading to a 27-8 surge that produced a 35-27 lead at halftime.

NOTES: The Sooners played without injured starter Buddy Hield, who suffered a broken foot in Monday night's victory over TCU. Hield was on the bench, with crutches. He's projected to miss the rest of the regular season, but could be available for postseason play. ... Seventeen Bedlam games have gone to overtime, with Oklahoma holding an 11-6 edge. Oklahoma State is 3-1 in the last four overtime games against Oklahoma. The Cowboys are 3-0 this season in overtime games and 8-2 in overtime games under coach Travis Ford. ... Oklahoma State is 75-52 (.586) all-time in overtime games and 39-13 (.750) at home in overtime games. ... Oklahoma State remains in the Big 12 race in mid-February for the first time since 2005.
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