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Smart Leads Cowboys To Bedlam Victory
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By Wendell Barnhouse | wendell@big12sports.com
Big12Sports.com Correspondent

STILLWATER, Okla. - Bedlam never left. Now, the rowdy is back.

Whenever the teams from Oklahoma and Oklahoma State meet - no matter what the sport and no matter the records of the teams - the state of Oklahoma stops and pays attention. But Bedlam is at its best when the outcome has bigger meaning than bragging rights. It also benefits when both teams are plugged into NCAA Tournament mock brackets.

For instance, when one of the teams (in this case, Oklahoma State) is a tied for first place in the Big 12 standings and other (Oklahoma) is lurking a game behind Bedlam's stakes rise to World Series of Poker levels. It was the first time since 2005 that both teams have fewer than nine losses going into their second meeting. And Saturday Gallagher-Iba Arena was sold out, occupied by 13,611 who helped the decibel level reach triple digits.

And thanks to two fast-food high school All-Americans, the Cowboys continued to prove their worth. Oklahoma State, with freshman Marcus Smart scoring a career-high 28 and sophomore Le'Bryan Nash supplying 26, made the plays that made the difference in an 84-79 overtime victory over the Sooners (16-8, 7-5).

The Cowboys have won seven in a row and are 19-5 and 9-3 in the Big 12.

"This is a fun group to coach and a fun group to be around," Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said. "They're young and they love to compete. I told 'em that if I talked about everybody who made a big play, I'd still be talking to 'em. It seems like we had everybody that played step up and make a play."

In overtime, three plays made the difference for the Cowboys.

Trailing 79-78, Smart saw that the 6-7 Nash had position against OU freshman Je'lon Hornbeak. The Sooners were in a zone and Hornbeak was on the baseline. Smart lobbed a perfect pass from the right wing that led to a Nash layup and an 80-79 lead.

The Cowboys' press had bothered Oklahoma in the second half and it paid dividends. Sam Grooms, the Sooners' senior point guard who had a season-high 18, was dribbling against Oklahoma State's Markel Brown.

"No way to really explain it. I just lost the basketball," Grooms said.

Brown said the scouting report on Grooms was that he liked to cross over to his left hand. Anticipating the bounce, Brown poked it away and that led to a Michael Cobbins layup and an 82-79 lead with 27.9 remaining.

Oklahoma's last chance ended with Smart making another game-winning play. Forced to fire from 20 feet, Steven Pledger went up for a game-tying three but the ball never left his hand. Smart capped it, forcing an alternating possession turnover to the Cowboys. Smart's free throws with 17.2 seconds clinched it.

"They needed a three," Smart explained. "I just timed it perfect. He could have pump faked me and got three free throws. I wanted for him to leave his feet and then I jumped. It was just instinct."

Pledger finished with 18. He had that total when he splashed a 25-footer with 11:43 remaining. Smart guarded Pledger from then on.

"He has ultimate range and ultimate green light," Smart said. "I asked coach, 'Just let me take him.' I took pride in making sure he wouldn't score."

Over the rest of regulation and overtime, Ford considered changing defenses; in particular, he thought about having his defenders switch players to counter the Sooners' screening. Turns out that would not have been Smart.

"Marcus told me, 'Coach, let me stay on Pledger. I got him,'" Ford said.

Smart's box score line: 7-of-14 from the field, 3-of-4 from 3-point range, 11-of-14 from the line, seven rebounds, two steals, one block.

"Smart has been terrific all season, he impacts the game in so many ways," Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. "He has a great feel for the game, he has all the intangibles. He had a great game today."

Smart was limited by foul trouble just over a month ago when the Sooners won Bedlam I. That was before the Cowboys became Cowmen, winning at Kansas to establish themselves as contenders instead of pretenders.

The preliminaries involved each team grabbing 11-point leads. Oklahoma State threatened to run away early, building a 19-8 lead just over eight minutes into the game. For the next 20 minutes, though, the Cowboys were shooting blanks. The missed 17 of their next 20 shots and had baskets on consecutive possessions just once.

"We were shooting way too many jump shots," Ford said.

Oklahoma countered Oklahoma State's cold streak. The Sooners, after making just five of their first 22 shots, closed the half with a 10-2 run and made eight consecutive field goals bridging the end of the first half and the first 2:29 of the second half. Je'lon Hornbeak's 3-pointer gave Oklahoma a 45-34 lead.

The game became Bedlam-tastic when Oklahoma State had field goals on four consecutive possessions. Nash had six points, attacking and scoring from around the basket. That spurt made it a three-point game with 16:14 remaining and neither team led by more than six the rest of the way. After halftime, Oklahoma State made 18 of 33 shots; Oklahoma was 16-of-28.

"We had high spirits going into OT," said Romero Osby, one of three Sooners to score 18. "We knew we had an opportunity to win it. . It's always tough to lose, especially to Oklahoma State. It hurts to not get a win but we can take some positives from it."

For Oklahoma State, the positive was sending the fans home happy. The students, who were in the house an hour before the game, stormed the court (a familiar scene for the Sooners, whose fans took the floor after OU beat Kansas last Saturday).

Ford took the public address microphone and thanked the fans. "We could not have done this without you," he said. "Thank you for bringing the rowdy back."

Ford sported an OSU orange blazer, the style that late women's coach Kurt Budke wore. Anything is fair in love and Bedlam.

"I like it, I think it's fly," Brown said, evoking a '70s term for style. "I think since he's been wearing it, we've been winning."

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