College Basketball – OSU tops Oklahoma in Bedlam, ties Kansas for second
Marcus Smart and Le’Bryan Nash combined for 54 points Saturday as Oklahoma State squeaked past Oklahoma 84-79 in overtime in Stillwater.
The win put the Cowboys (19-5) in a tie with Kansas for second place in the Big 12.
Kansas State beat West Virginia Monday night to take sole possession of first place at 10-3. The Sooners (16-8, 7-5) are in a tie with Iowa State and Baylor for fourth place in the league.
OSU had a big showdown with KU Wednesday night in Stillwater while OU traveled to Texas Tech. OSU travels to West Virginia for a 1 p.m. game Saturday and the Sooners host Baylor at 4 p.m. Saturday.
“I’m so proud of our basketball team,” said OSU coach Travis Ford. “I’ve got a lot of respect for Oklahoma as well. They’re a very well coached, very good basketball team. I thought that our kids showed a lot of heart. I think the fan support played a role this afternoon. Gallagher-Iba being rowdy again was a big key. I thought we just played hard.
“Oklahoma really punched us hard and played really well. We just made big plays down the stretch. That was the key. We made a couple of big plays in the first half when we lost the lead, and got it back a little bit. I’m very proud of our basketball team and how hard they played. What a great game. What a great game for the fans to see, and I hope they come back.”
“It’s a tough loss, sure, but a really good basketball game,” said OU coach Lon Kruger. “I thought guys on both teams played their hearts out. It was a big-time battle from start to finish. Guys on both teams made a lot of big-time plays. Defense was having a tough time getting stops. I’m proud of our guys. Disappointed in not finishing it, but we got beat by a really good Oklahoma State ball club. We’ll grow from this. We’ve got to keep making progress. There’s a lot of the season left, and we’ll keep getting better. I’m proud of our guys. They’ll bounce back from this.”
Smart led the Cowboys with 28 points while Nash tossed in a season-high 26 in the seesaw battle with the visiting Sooners Saturday.
“He’s pretty special,” Ford said of Smart. “He does so many great things, but sometimes he does things that frustrate me, too. It’s crazy. You’ve got to take all the great with the negatives, but he is a special player. He wants to win so bad, and that’s usually where his mistakes come into play. You can live with that as a coach. I thought he played really well, and he made the other guys better too.”
“We played against a great OU team today,” Smart said. “They came in with a lot of confidence and they came in to try to win. They gave us all they had, but we just sustained it and we just came back out and let them know that we’re at home and we can’t afford this loss. We just kept fighting back.”
Smart targeted OU’s Steven Pledger, who was the leading returning scorer in the Big 12 this season.
“We lost him a couple times, a player like that has the ultimate range, he heated up,” Smart said. “I told coach, ‘Let me take him, everybody else guard their man and I’ll make sure he doesn’t score.’ I took pride in that and that was my primary plan to not let him score there at the end.”
Ford said OU presented some matchup challenges.
“Pledger went on about a three-minute tear where he was just making everything,” Ford said. “Marcus [Smart] asked to guard him. He took that as a personal challenge, and he did a great job. Then the matchup with Markel [Brown] and Sam Grooms was pretty good. He kept letting him drive. He thought he had four fouls, but at the time he did not, he had three. He was playing very hesitant. [Romero] Osby is hard to stop. He’s such a mismatch problem. They do a good job of countering with him, and getting Pledger a stop. Give credit to them, but give credit to our guys for making plays. We had big steals, a big blocked shot by Marcus, a big and-one by Le’Bryan Nash. You can’t single out any one guy on our team because so many guys made big plays.”
Osby paced the Sooners with 18 points and 15 rebounds while point guard Sam Grooms had a career-high 18 points.
“[Romero] had done such a good job carrying us down the stretch there in the second half,” Kruger said. “We were trying to get him isolated there and give him some options. Oklahoma State did a good job of covering it. He was terrific as he’s been all season.”
“We came into it with high spirits,” Osby said. “We thought we still had an opportunity to win the game. We weren’t down because we had been up most of the game or anything like that. That’s the case with some teams, but we just tried to keep it together and stay poised. We knew we had an opportunity to win it.”
Grooms played a big role for the Sooners.
“Sam played great,” Kruger said. “I thought he battled it all day long and was a big reason we were in good position late. He was attacking, he handled the pressure very well in the backcourt, and he played great. He’ll remember the couple turnovers there late. His significance in the game was terrific, he played great, and we wouldn’t have been in that position if he hadn’t played how he did.”
“I think the atmosphere was great,” Grooms said. “I haven’t been around for that long, but from my understanding, it felt like an old-fashioned game in here. It was loud, intense and it was a fun atmosphere to play in. Of course, we wanted to get a win in that atmosphere to go back home with, but it was great.
“It hurts to come out of here without the win. At the same time though, we learned a lot of things as a team that can help us grow in the future. That’s what we’re looking forward to. We have to go forward into the next game and through the rest of the season. We’ll work hard for next week.”
With the win over Oklahoma, the Cowboys had now won seven-consecutive Big 12 games, the longest streak since 2003-04 when OSU won 11 straight league contests.
Oklahoma State committed just five turnovers against the Sooners, the fewest by the Cowboys this season. The previous low was eight on three occasions. It’s the fewest turnovers since OSU committed just two against Texas Tech on Jan. 4, 2012.
Seventeen Bedlam games have now gone into overtime, with Oklahoma holding an 11-6 edge. OSU is 3-1 in the last four OT games vs Oklahoma.
OSU is 3-0 this season in overtime games and 8-2 in OT games under Ford. Oklahoma State is 75-52 (.586) all-time in overtime games and 39-13 (.750) at home in OT contests.
Freshman Phil Forte went 33 minutes without a turnover. Over the last eight games, he has just two turnovers in 189 minutes on the court, an average of just 0.42 turnovers-per-40 minutes.
Kruger isn’t ready to speculate on whether OU will make the NCAA Tournament.
“We’re not at all concerned about it,” Kruger said. ” If Selection (Sunday) were today, I might have some feelings about that. I’d feel pretty good about it. Our guys have done a great job. But we have a lot of games left, and a lot of work to do, and we’ll approach it like we always need one more. We’ll work on getting better.”