Naadir Tharpe stepped in after Elijah Johnson fouled out with three minutes left in the first overtime. All he did from there was hit the game-winning shot with 16.5 seconds left in the second overtime, nailing a jumper inside over Phil Forte to give Kansas a 68-67 lead.
After a Markel Brown miss and scramble for the loose ball, Kansas had avenged their February 2nd loss to the Cowboys at Allen Fieldhouse.
There wasn’t a lot of finesse in this matchup. After one half, Kansas had made 11 of 28 shots. Oklahoma State hit just 9 of 31. Ben McLemore missed his first eight shots, never really got open, and didn’t even score until halfway through the second half after putting back an offensive rebound. He hit the only three-pointer the Jayhawks made all night shortly after, but only finished with seven points. Despite his off game, Kansas found other players stepping up.
Travis Releford scored 18 points, often driving to the lane for layups. Jeff Withey made just 2 of 4 free throws in the first half, but down the stretch, he hit 9 of 10 in the second half and both overtimes to finish with 17 points. He also pulled down 14 rebounds and blocked four shots despite running into foul trouble within the first two minutes of the second half.
Withey’s been great at being aggressive at the rim but not fouling all season, and tonight, that particular ability paid off, as he was vital to the defense. Three of his four blocked shots occurred after he’d committed his third foul and he didn’t get a fourth called until the second overtime.
As has been the case already this season, the Jayhawks had trouble with their offense, especially in the first half. Many of their baskets came from second chances or being able to drive. While the offense sputtered, they did get opportunities by going inside. Releford was solid in that way, and Johnson had one of his better games of the season, making some quick moves and crossovers to get inside and hitting tough layups. He did miss two key free throws in the first overtime though.
Tharpe redeemed himself after hitting only one other shot in ten tries in his 31 minutes of play (and it was KU’s only field goal in either overtime). He committed a key turnover at the end of regulation that gave Oklahoma State the last shot with the score tied at 57. Marcus Smart took the ball waiting on a high screen, but got held up in the backcourt when Withey came out to help and he didn’t get a good look as time expired.
Smart had as bad a night as McLemore from the field, hitting 2 of 14 shots, but he was able to get to the free throw line and hit 11 free throws on his way to 16 points. He fouled out halfway through the second overtime on an offensive foul. Releford took the charge.
Tharpe hit the big shot at the end of the game, but Kansas wouldn’t have won this game without Releford’s efforts. He made the drives to score over the course of the game, but also got to the line in the first overtime after an offensive rebound where he got fouled trying to tip it back in. He hit both free throws to extend the KU lead to 63-60 before Forte tied it with a three. Then he took the charge from Smart to foul him out.
The smartest play, though, came at the end. Brown missed the shot. Forte rebounded but was falling out of bounds. Releford recognized that and ran backwards away from him so that Forte couldn’t throw the ball off of him. When the ball bounced along the sideline, Releford chased after, dove and kept it in play, tipping it ahead to McLemore as the second overtime expired.
A wild finish to an ugly game with big conference implications. Kansas improved to 10-3 in the Big 12, while OSU dropped to 9-4. That puts Kansas and Kansas State in a tie for first place in the conference, with KU holding the tiebreaker after beating KSU twice.
Kansas will host TCU on Saturday at 3 p.m. CST and will look to avenge another earlier conference loss.