March Madness may not officially commence for another week, but at the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City, the madness is already well in progress, as it has been all season long in what is believed this year to be college basketball’s strongest conference.
In game two of the Big 12 quartertinal round, Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins followed up his 41-point performance last Sunday against West Virginia with a 30-point game against eighth-seeded Oklahoma State as the No. 1-seeded Jayhawks esscaped with a 77-70 victory in overtime.
The win avenged a seven-point loss at Oklahoma State just a couple of weeks ago and advanced 10-time defending league champion Kansas to the conference semifinals on Friday, where they will go up against fourth-seed Iowa State. The Jayhawks swept the Cyclones in the two games between the schools in the regular season.
The Kansas defense held Oklahoma State, one of the better shooting teams in the Big 12, to just 31 percent shooting in the first half and went to the locker room with a nine-point 32-23 advantage. Wiggins scored 13 of his 30 points in the opening 20 minutes and teammate Wayne Selden added nine. Kansas had a 10-rebound edge going into the break, which the Jayhawks increased in the second half to plus 16 for the game.
Oklahoma State got rolling on offense in the second half, slowly chipping away at the Kansas lead, and took the lead for the first time since the 14-minute mark of the first half, going out in front 60-59 with 4:08 remaining in the game. The two teams exchanged the lead several times down the stretch. With 1:32 left in the game, OSU’s Markel Brown hit a long three-point jumper to erase a one-point Kansas lead and put the Cowboys up by two.
Wiggins canned a short jumper 30 second later to tie the score at 67. That’s the way it remained at the end of regulation, with Kansas’ Tarik Black, filling in the for injured Joel Embiid, putting in a missed shot by Wiggins just a fraction of a second after the final buzzer had sounded.
In the extra session, Perry Ellis of Kansas made a free throw three seconds into the overtime to put Kansas up by one. Fifty seconds later, Oklahoma State three-point specialist Phil Forte made a three-point shot to put the Cowboys up by two, 70-68, but that would be the final points scored by OSU. The Cowboys had six more shots at the basket in the overtime, but missed all six. Meanwhile, Kansas made its free throws at the end to slowly pull away and avoid the upset.
Le’Bryan Nash led the Oklahoma State scorers with 19 points, Forte had 16 and Marcus Smart added 14 points and seven rebounds.
Black played 26 minutes in place of Embiid and had a solid game, scoring seven points and pulling down a game-high 12 rebounds. Jamari Traylor also played considerable minutes, logging a career-high 27 minutes himself and finishing with six points and nine rebounds for Kansas.
“It was an unbelievable game,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said afterward. “It took everything we had to play out of foul trouble, and I think it took everything Iowa State had to win earlier today. So you’ll have two tired teams that have to recover fast and get ready (for) tomorrow.”