By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript
STILLWATER — Bedlam produced everything Oklahoma could have possibly wanted except what it coveted most — a win over Oklahoma State.
That dwindled away in the final minutes of overtime in an 84-79 loss to the 17th-ranked Cowboys at Gallagher-Iba Arena. It was truly a game OU let slip away.
“Tough loss for sure,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “But it was a really good basketball game. 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. Defenses were having a tough time getting stops.”
Both did, but the Cowboys got the one they had to have with 41 seconds left. OU point guard Sam Grooms, who came off the bench to play the best game of his career, was stripped by OSU’s Markel Brown for a steal at midcourt. Michael Cobbins scooped up the ball and turned it into a layup and an 82-79 lead.
OU never got off another shot.
“As far as the last couple plays, I don’t think there’s any way to explain it,” said Grooms, who scored a career-high 18 points and handed out game-high four assists. “I just lost the basketball, turned it over. I’ll remember that.”
That’s where the Sooners’ heartache came. For 43 minutes, the Sooners (16-8, 7-5 Big 12) answered every OSU (19-5, 9-3) run.
Romero Osby joined Grooms in scoring 18 points and pulled down 15 rebounds. The senior forward was a freight train in the second half, scoring the Sooners’ final 10 points in regulation.
If OU could have gotten him a clean look on its last offensive possession, it might have been able to celebrate a win on the Cowboys’ floor for the first time since 2009.
Kruger called two timeouts during the Sooners’ last second-half possession to set up a play for Osby. They were finally able to get him the ball with four seconds left on the shot clock. Osby’s running jumper missed the iron.
After Marcus Smart’s miss at the buzzer, overtime ensued.
“We were still in high spirits. We still had an opportunity to win the game. We weren’t down because we had been up for most of the game and we had to go to overtime. Usually that’s the case with teams, but we tried to stay together and keep our head, stay poised,” Osby said. “We knew we’d have an opportunity to win once we got it to overtime.”
But the Sooners never heated up in the extra period.
Steven Pledger scored 18 points as well, but didn’t score in the final 11 minutes of regulation or overtime.
Marcus Smart turned out to be the unstoppable force. The Cowboys’ freshman point guard scored 28 points, including the game’s last two points on a pair of free throws with 17 seconds left. Those came after he forced a jump-ball turnover from Pledger seconds earlier.
“I knew at the time that he needed a 3 and I knew once he got the ball he would try to take it. I just timed it perfectly, made sure I got the ball, not foul him and the referee called it a jump ball,” Smart said. “He’s a good player and he could have easily pump-faked me and tried to get a foul but it was just instinct and I left my feet when he did and timed it perfectly.”
Smart was the factor from the first Bedlam meeting on Jan. 12 in Norman that drastically changed. He picked up three first-half fouls in the first meeting and only played 27 minutes. Saturday, he was on the floor for 40 and added seven rebounds and four assists.
But Smart wasn’t alone.
OSU shot 43.5 percent (27 for 62). Le’Bryan Nash also drastically upped his game from the first meeting, finishing with 26 points Saturday.
Still, it was a game OU controlled most of the way. Despite trailing by 11 points midway through the first half, it closed the first half with a 27-8 run and 35-27 at halftime. OSU didn’t get the lead again until overtime.
The Sooners shot 47.5 percent (29 for 61) and only committed nine turnovers. Three, however, were in overtime. One or two more plays on either end would have been enough to give the Sooners a victory on Saturday.
“I’m proud of our guys,” Kruger said. “Disappointed in not finishing it and not winning the ball game, but we got beat by a really good Oklahoma State ball club that played well. We’ll grow from this. We’ve got to keep making progress. We’ve got a lot of season left. We’ll keep getting better.”
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