Kansas guard Naadir Tharpe (1) sends the game winning shot over Oklahoma State guard Phil Forte (10) and guard Le'Bryan Nash (2) in the second overtime of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013. Kansas won in double overtime 68-67. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) -- After he'd missed time and time again all night long, for some reason Naadir Tharpe's final attempt just felt right when it left his hand.
And what a shot it was for No. 9 Kansas.
Tharpe connected on a short jumper in the lane with 16.5 seconds left in the second overtime, lifting the Jayhawks over No. 14 Oklahoma State 68-67 on Wednesday night for a critical win in the Big 12 championship race.
Tharpe had made only one of his first 11 shots, and Kansas (22-4, 10-3 Big 12) hadn't made a field goal in either overtime, before one finally fell through at just the right time.
"I knew I just had to make a play," said Tharpe, who was filling in at the point after starter Elijah Johnson fouled out.
Travis Releford scored 18 points and Jeff Withey had three double-overtime free throws among his 17 points for the Jayhawks, who are tied with No. 13 Kansas State for the conference lead with five games to go. Kansas has had at least a share of the Big 12 regular-season title for each of the past eight years, but that streak was in jeopardy against the surging Cowboys.
Markel Brown scored 20 points to lead Oklahoma State (19-6, 9-4), which had won seven straight - including snapping the Jayhawks' 33-game home winning streak at Allen Fieldhouse earlier this month - to move into a three-way tie for the league lead.
"Our whole focus is just to win the Big 12," Releford said. "Teams beat us. We knew we weren't going to run the table and go undefeated.
"Unfortunately, it just happened they beat us at home. We just were focused to come in and try to get a win."
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State's star freshman, had 16 points but fouled out midway through the second extra period when he slammed into Releford after going airborne on a drive to the basket.
On the winning play, Tharpe isolated against Phil Forte and wiggled his way into the lane before popping in a jumper from the right side. Brown missed a jumper from the left wing with about 7 seconds left, and Releford dove along the sideline in front of Oklahoma State's bench to prevent the rebound from going out of bounds and instead let the final seconds tick off the clock.
"It's a hard pill to swallow," Brown said. "I felt like this game could have went either way. A double-overtime game, it was a tough one out there."
Neither team led by more than six during the classic with championship implications, and both had their chances to win it at the end of regulation and each overtime.
The Jayhawks' best-in-the-nation defense limited Oklahoma State to a season-low 32.8 percent shooting. Kansas missed its first seven shots after regulation, only escaping after Tharpe's play in crunch time.
"Neither team had any offense and he certainly made a huge play there late. Just huge," coach Bill Self said. "Biggest play of his life, I'm sure,"
With so many misses, naturally, each team's star freshman had his share.
Ben McLemore, on pace to replace Danny Manning as the highest-scoring freshman in Kansas history, misfired on his first eight shots before making three in a row in the second half. He had a season-low seven points.
Smart started out 0 for 9 before finally hitting a fallaway jumper along the right side of the lane to cut Oklahoma State's deficit to 53-51 with 3:20 left in regulation. Forte tied it soon after, making a pair of free throws after coming up with a steal.
Smart came out of the game once after hurting his right shoulder and again after tweaking his right ankle in the first half. He then got socked in the face by Withey early in the second half. But it wasn't until he got his fifth foul that he finally couldn't return.
"Marcus is a big key to this team, so once he fouled out, I was like, `Oh, shoot! We need Marcus out there,"' Brown said. "He brings the toughness out there. He gets stops out there. No matter if he's shooting bad for the night, he still can make that big-time play for you."
The Jayhawks weren't able to close it out in regulation after Releford banked in a tricky scoop shot underneath for a 57-53 lead with 1:49 to play. Smart made one of two free throws at the opposite end and, after Withey missed inside for Kansas, he got out in transition for a 3-pointer to tie it with 1:11 to play.
Johnson crossed over Smart on a drive, getting him to fall down in the lane, but Michael Cobbins came over to the rescue and swatted Johnson's shot into the hands of Self on the Jayhawks' bench. Brian Williams knocked the ball away from Tharpe to give OSU a chance at the win, but Smart missed a wild, off-balance jumper from the right wing and time ran out with the game tied at 57.
Forte drilled a 3-pointer from the left corner with 56.4 seconds left to tie it at 63 in the first overtime. The game went to a second overtime after McLemore air-balled a 3-pointer, Smart came up empty on a drive and Releford missed a driving attempt for Kansas. Smart's desperation shot from three-quarters court grazed the front of the rim.
"It was crazy," Releford said. "We knew it was going to be a tough match. With the crowd on their side and them being at home, we just knew we had to come out and just tough it out, and we did."
No. 9 Jayhawks Notch Road Win in Double OT, 68-67
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.