No. 14 Oklahoma State 74, Baylor 72
Lined up along the lane, Smart simply turned around.
He only knew that Forte’s foul shot had been made by the roar of the crowd.
Forte added the second of his two free throws a moment later, allowing No. 14 Oklahoma State to survive after blowing a 20-point lead for a 74-72 victory over Pierre Jackson and pesky Baylor in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament Thursday night.
“In close games like that, he’s at the free throw line, it’s a tradition I do,” Smart said of the decisive free throw. “Turn around, relieve some of the pressure off him, having to look his teammate in the eyes, and he hit a big-time shot at a big moment.”
Jackson got a good look at a potential winning 3-pointer after Forte’s two free throws, racing up the sideline opposite the benches. He pulled up from the wing and let go a shot that clanked off the back iron as the backboard lit up to signal the end of the game.
Exhausted by the comeback, Jackson collapsed face-down to the floor of the Sprint Center.
“I definitely thought it went in,” said Jackson, who had 24 of his 31 points while trying to rally his team in the second half. “Those are the kinds of moments you live for, being able to take the last shot and help your team out, and I wasn’t able to hit it.”
Smart finished with 21 points, and Forte and LeBryan Nash each added 14 for the Cowboys (24-7), who will play No. 11 Kansas State in the semifinals Friday night.
It’ll be a rematch of a game won by the Cowboys last Saturday.
“We know they’re a good team,” Nash said. “We know they’re a good team, and it’ll be a good battle. We have to come out stronger than we did tonight.”
Iowa St. 73, Oklahoma 66
Melvin Ejim had a double-double and Will Clyburn fueled a 12-0 second-half run, helping Iowa State survive an uncharacteristic 3-point drought to beat Oklahoma 73-66 on Thursday and end a seven-year losing streak in the Big 12 tournament.
The Cyclones, who led the country and set a school record with 309 3-pointers, missed 11 of their first 12 from behind the arc and fell 14 points behind. But they found the range in the second half and hit six 3-pointers while chalking up their first conference tournament win since 2005.
In the semifinals on Friday, the fifth-seeded Cyclones (22-10) will meet the winner of the Thursday afternoon match between top-seeded Kansas and No. 9 seed Texas Tech
Ejim led Iowa State with 23 points and 12 rebounds, Clyburn had 17 points, and Georges Niang and Chris Babb each had 10.
Oklahoma (20-10) was led by Romero Osby’s 18 points. Cameron Clark had 17, including two free throws that gave the Sooners a 60-48 lead. But then Niang hit a 3-pointer and ignited the 12-0 run in which Clyburn scored seven points, including a long 3-pointer that tied it at 60 at the 4:09 mark and brought several thousand Iowa State fans roaring to their feet.
Clyburn banked home an Iowa State bucket during the 12-0 run, then hit the 3-pointer. Oklahoma’s Sam Grooms had two air balls during the run but canned a free throw to tie it the score at 63 before Tyrus McGee’s 3-pointer put the Cyclones ahead for good at 66-63.
Another Grooms free throw sliced the led to two points but then Ejim banked home another bucket for Iowa State, and Babb drilled a 3-pointer for a 71-66 lead.
Romero, the first Sooner in four years to be voted first-team all-conference by Big 12 coaches, had 12 points and seven rebounds as the Sooners dominated the first half and pushed the bulge to 32-18 on Je’lon Hornbeck’s two free throws.
Osby rimmed out a free throw midway through the second half for the Sooners’ first missed foul shot against the Cyclones since tying an NCAA record by going 34 for 34 in their previous game against each other. The streak ended at 39 straight, and for the game, the Sooners were 15 of 18 from the line.
The Cyclones, who led the nation and set a school record with 309 regular-season 3-pointers, misfired on their first 10 attempts from beyond the arc and were only 1 of 12 while trailing almost the entire first half. For the game, they were 7 of 26 while going 14 of 14 from the foul line.
The Cyclones did not hit their first 3 until Babb connected with less than 2 minutes left in the half, capping a 7-2 spurt which trimmed Oklahoma’s lead from 30-18 to 32-25.
Two possessions later, Steven Pledger hit Oklahoma’s second 3, and the Sooners eventually went into halftime with a 37-29 lead.
Ejim’s two free throws capped the scoring for Iowa State, which had split with the Sooners during the regular season.
No. 7 Kansas 91, Texas Tech 63
Top-seeded Kansas wasn’t about to let itself get lulled into a sense of apathy by playing an early afternoon game in the Big 12 tournament.
It helped that the Jayhawks had a partisan crowd behind them in the Sprint Center.
It also helped that they had Iowa State awaiting them in the semifinals.
Ben McLemore scored 24 points and the hot-shooting, seventh-ranked Jayhawks rolled to a 91-63 rout of Texas Tech on Thursday, setting up a third matchup with the Cyclones that basketball fans can only hope lives up to the drama of their first two games this season.
“Those two games may be the two most exciting games played in our league this year,” said Kansas coach Bill Self, whose team emerged victorious in overtime on both occasions.
If Kansas shoots it like it did Thursday, regulation might suffice this time.
“We were pretty efficient offensively when we didn’t turn it over,” Self said. “Ben got us off to a good start before we puttered around, but we played a pretty good second half.”
Dejan Kravic scored 20 points, Dusty Hannahs added 15 and Jordan Tolbert had 13 for the Red Raiders, (11-20), who head into the offseason awaiting the fate of interim coach Chris Walker.
The longtime assistant took over in October, shortly after Billy Gillispie submitted a letter of resignation citing health concerns, and has been told he’ll be a candidate for the job.
“I’m going to take it day-by-day,” Walker said. “There’s a process we’re going through at Tech. I’m certainly aware of it, and I think it’s a good thing. I’ve done all I can to make a case. The one thing I am very appreciative of is the opportunity I received.”
No. 11 Kansas St. 66, Texas 49
It didn’t seem to matter what Rodney McGruder did — fire away over the Texas zone, pull up in the lane or take a pass from Angel Rodriguez down low.
There was no way the Longhorns were stopping No. 11 Kansas State’s all-conference senior, who scored 24 points to lead the Wildcats to a 66-49 victory over the Longhorns on Thursday night in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament.
“It all starts with our fans, how much they support us,” said McGruder. “They push us to so hard, we know what we’re doing is not only for ourselves but also the Manhattan (Kan.) community. It just feels good to do big things for our community.”
McGruder, who ranks in the top 10 in 14 of Kansas State’s career categories, also had a team-high seven rebounds as the second-seeded Wildcats (26-6) whipped the Longhorns for the third time this year.
Julien Lewis scored 13 points and Jonathan Holmes had 10 for Texas (16-17), which trailed almost the entire game and is in grave danger of missing the NCAA tournament for the first time in 15 years.
“I’m disappointed,” said Texas coach Rick Barnes. “I think when you have high expectations in anything you’re going to be disappointed. I’m disappointed. I think we could have won this game today. I think we could have won this tournament. But we didn’t because we made the same mistakes we made in two other games with them. We helped them out. And they don’t need any help.”
The Wildcats, who tied No. 7 Kansas for their first regular-season conference title since 1977, will face No. 14 Oklahoma State in the semifinals Friday night.
“It’s a good win,” said Kansas State coach Bruce Weber, whose shooters spent most of the game trying to solve the Texas zone. “I told the guys I thought they would play zone. So it wasn’t unexpected. And when you saw that starting lineup, you knew they were going to do it.”