STILLWATER, Okla. — Kansas head coach Bill Self threw two triumphant fist pumps and hugged senior guard Travis Releford as No. 9/9 KU closed a frantic, double-overtime win over Oklahoma State, 68-67, in Gallagher-Iba Arena late Wednesday night.
Releford, who poured in a team-best 18 points, summed up the effort needed to pull out the win by diving for a loose ball rebound in the game’s waning seconds, then celebrated after helping Kansas (22-4, 10-3 Big 12) take a tightly-contested battle of Big 12 leaders. Naadir Tharpe’s spin move in the lane and floater over OSU’s Joe Forte with 16 seconds to play proved to be the deciding basket of a game that saw 23 total lead changes, 16 ties and the largest lead at just five points.
Markel Brown led all scorers with 20 points, and was one of three Cowboys in double figures, but in the end Oklahoma State (19-6, 9-4 Big 12) was bested on its home court for the first time in Big 12 play and for just the second time this season.
Jeff Withey scored 17 points for Kansas, including X in overtime, and pulled down a season-best 14 rebounds. Elijah Johnson added 10 points for KU before fouling out in the first overtime period and Kevin Young ripped down 11 rebounds to go with eight points.
Kansas felt it was outworked on the glass in the Feb. 2 loss in Allen Fieldhouse and showed an emphasis on rebounding early in the game. The Jayhawks snagged four offensive rebounds in the first four minutes and scored their first three buckets off put backs – one by Releford and two by Young.
Neither team was able to put much distance between itself and the other in the first half with a three-point margin at 15-12 after a pair of free throws by Forte at the 7:21 mark representing the largest lead. That didn’t last long, however, as Johnson hit a runner in the lane after a short stint on the bench with foul trouble, then Kansas turned a failed break by OSU into a fast break dunk by Young to take the lead.
Two of the leaders for Big 12 Conference Player and Freshman of the Year, Marcus Smart and Ben McLemore couldn’t find a way to knock down a bucket in the game’s first 20 minutes. Smart scored four points – all from the free-throw line – but went 0-for-5 from the field. McLemore provided one of the most exciting plays of the half, a put back dunk just after the buzzer sounded – keeping him scoreless after an 0-for-8 performance.
Kansas used the putbacks and eight points from Jeff Withey to hold a 20-8 edge in points in the paint at halftime but both teams entered their locker rooms tied at 26-26, Kansas’ first tie at the break all season.
The see-saw scoring continued early in the second half before back-to-back lay-ups by Releford got Kansas its own three-point lead, and another leaner in the lane by Johnson pushed it to five, 36-31 with 14:50 to play. In the end, Johnson’s bucket provided the largest margin, but that lead too was short lived.
Despite the lack of field goals, Smart found his way to the free throw line and scored 16 points on 2-of-14 shooting from the field and 11-of-14 shooting from the charity stripe. One of Smart’s two makes was one of the most important for OSU, a three-pointer with a little more than a minute left to tie the game at 57-57. He hand an attempt at a fadeaway jumper just inside the three-point arc as time expired, but it wouldn’t go and sent the game to extra time.
KU’s McLemore also found his way into the scoring totals in the second half also, going 3-for-3 in the game’s second 20 minutes, including the Jayhawks’ only three-pointer. McLemore finished with seven points and six rebounds.
Kansas was winning a free-throw contest in the first overtime as the team hit 6-of-8 from the line to OSU’s 3-of-6, but Forte ended the field goal drought, and an 0-for-6 slump of his own, with a three in the corner to tie it at 63-63 – the only field goal of the first overtime period. Both teams had opportunities in the final seconds but Smart’s three-quarters court attempt glanced off the front of the rim as time expired.
Oklahoma State seemed to grasp the upper hand in the second overtime and took a 65-63 lead on a jumper by Forte, but Michael Cobbins fouled out and Smart followed soon after as Releford took a key charge on a delayed Cowboys’ break.
Withey hit a pair of free throws, then Brown took his turn as the go-to scorer for Oklahoma State and gave the Cowboys a 67-66 lead, prompting a timeout by Self and setting the stage for Tharpe. After the go-ahead bucket for KU, Brown missed an attempt on the other end, Forte corralled the rebound momentarily but Releford poked it away and time expired.
Kansas looks for more redemption and will get a second shot at Big 12 newcomer TCU when the Horned Frogs visit Allen Fieldhouse Saturday for a 3 p.m. tilt on the Big 12 Network. The Jayhawks will celebrate 115 years of Kansas Basketball by welcoming back former players and team personnel. Additionally, KU Athletics will distribute three-point cards courtesy of Pittcraft.