Kansas Jayhawks hasn’t released its stranglehold on the Big 12 Conference yet.
Revenging an earlier home loss to Oklahoma State that set off a 3-game losing run and queued up questions on their standing as the league’s elite team, the No. 9-ranked Jayhawks re-established themselves as perhaps the co-favorite, beating the No. 14 Oklahoma State 68-67 in double overtime.
Kansas guard Naadir Tharpe tossed in a running jumper in the lane with 16.5 seconds remaining in the second extra period to send the Jayhawks in front before Oklahoma State’s Markel Brown missed an 18-footer at the other end, finally ending a rugged clash of conference frontrunners.
With the win, KU improved to 10-3 in the Big 12 — tied with Kansas State on top of the league standings — and 22-4 overall. And the Jayhawks remain alive for a 9th straight regular-season conference crown.
“It’s a big win for conference implications,” declared KU coach Bill Self. “I really thought that Cowboys had the best path. I am not saying we were unable to have won it, but we now still have the toughest road of anybody.
“We’re still in the game, though. This was big today. Oklahoma State is brilliant. They’ve got a terrific team, they are coached great and the crowd was great. It was certainly rocking tonight. We couldn’t communicate and we couldn’t hear.”
Oklahoma State (19-6, 9-4) saw its 7-game winning streak snapped.
Tharpe, running the offense for a fouled-out Elijah Johnson, had made just 1-of-10 shots from the floor, before the game-winner, which he made despite of solid defense from Oklahoma State’s Phil Forte.
“Tonight, he could not get the ball in the basket,” Self said of Tharpe. “He has actually improved his floater shot, but the one shot he made, if I’m not mistaken, was a hard, twisting layup. We didn’t really have any offense, though. Neither team had any offense.
“He actually made a big play there late. Biggest play of his life, I am sure.”
Travis Releford led the Jayhawks with 18 points, while Jeff Withey added 17 in the win.
Brown led the Oklahoma State Cowboys with 20 points. Marcus Smart, who fouled out on a charging call in the 2nd overtime, added 16 for Oklahoma State.
The Oklahoma State Cowboys had a chance to win at the end of regulation, but Smart’s fade-away 16-footer was short and off the rim.
Smart had scored 6 of Oklahoma State’s final 8 points in regulation, helping the Cowboys overcome a 57-53 deficiency at the 1:48 mark. The Jayhawks didn’t score again till the first overtime, as the teams went to the extra period tied at 57-57.
And they were tied still, after one overtime though Smart had another last shot, this one from 75 feet that glanced off the front of the rim. Odds
Tharpe’s floater was KU’s only field goal in either overtime, with its other 9 points coming at the foul line.
A sold-out crowd of 16,311 at Gallagher-Iba Arena roared all though as the teams battled for a share of the Big 12 lead with Kansas State, which had already won this week to head to 10-3 in the league.