NORMAN, Okla. – Add another 350 or so days to The Streak.
The last time Oklahoma State won Bedlam here was on February 16, 2004 – that’s a span of 3,634 days and counting.
No. 23 Oklahoma kept its home court winning streak in the rivalry alive with a sure and steady 88-76 victory over the eighth-ranked Cowboys. The victory moved the Sooners (17-4, 6-2) into second place, a half game ahead of Texas. Oklahoma State (16-4, 4-3) is now in a third-place tie with Kansas State.
Oklahoma was in attack mode and put the Cowboys on their spurs. Oklahoma State had three players foul out, including starters Le’Bryan Nash and Kamari Murphy. Nash, who scored a career-high 29 in Saturday’s victory over West Virginia, was limited to 17 minutes and scored just eight points.
The Sooners had a 42-22 edge in free throws attempted. OU freshman point guard Jordan Woodard led four players in double figures with 18 points. Ryan Spangler had 15 points and a career-high 17 rebounds while Tyler Neal came off the bench to score 15 points – most of them in crucial situations.
“We’ve got a lot of trust in each other,” said Neal, who played 17 minutes. “It’s an easy team to play for. Everyone can score. When you’ve got a shot, take it and make it. It’s that simple.”
“The bench was huge tonight,” said Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger, whose team has defeated three top 12 teams in its last six games. “That’s been the trademark of this team, different guys coming through on different nights.”
Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, coming off his worst game of the season, scored 22 but missed eight of 11 3-point attempts. Phil Forte had 20, making all six of his 3-point attempts, to help keep the Cowboys in range until the final minutes.
“The free throw discrepancy was huge,” Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said. “I didn’t think we played well defensively at all. When you’re out of position, usually you’re going to foul. And Oklahoma does a great job of attacking you off the dribble.
“We can’t keep getting into foul trouble.”
Oklahoma’s potent offense (averaging 83.8 points per game, 10th in the nation) puts pressure on the opponent. When the Sooners get a lead, they make trading baskets a losing proposition.
That was the case in the first half. Oklahoma went on a 13-0 run to take a 20-10 lead with 11:54 remaining. The rest of the half, the Cowboys tried to play catch up but they could never cut the deficit to less than four.
The efficiency of the Sooners’ offense was evident on the play that capped the run. The 6-7 Neal was isolated on 5-11 Stevie Clark. OU got Neal the ball, who wheeled into the lane for the basket and a free throw to complete a three-point play.
Markel Brown (18 points in 39 minutes, who had a spectacular 360-dunk in Saturday’s victory over West Virginia, added another to his poster collection with a dribble drive and dunk to make it 39-35 with 2:34 remaining in the first half.
The Sooners answered with a Hield drive, a Clark dunk off a Cousins lob pass. Then, after a use-it-or-lose-it timeout with 58.3 seconds remaining, Kruger dialed up a set play that freed Neal for a 3-pointer.
All things considered, Oklahoma State’s 46-38 halftime deficit had a “glass is half full” feeling. The Cowboys played the last 9:47 without starters Smart and Nash, who each picked up two fouls.
“A few times I’d look at the scoreboard and I was surprised we weren’t down by a bigger margin,” Ford said.
Clark, the backup point guard, got his third foul at the 5:32 mark of the first half and fouled out with 12:18 remaining after playing just 12 minutes.
Oklahoma continued to attack after halftime and built its largest lead (60-43) with 13:52 remaining. The Cowboys were able to pull within 76-60 with 3:40 remaining on a low-post move by Nash. But 10 seconds later he collected his fifth foul and any thoughts of a miracle comeback disappeared.
A crowd of 11,002 created a white-out with t-shirts placed on every seat. The pro-OU crowd had an enjoyable evening inside out of the polar vortex chill.
“It’s good for basketball in the state to have both teams ranked and we know it will be a great atmosphere when we play in Stillwater (Feb. 15),” Kruger said. “Great crowd tonight, had a big impact on our energy right off the bat.”
The “Ov-er ra-ted” chant has become a cliché. In particular, that cheer tends to denigrate the accomplishment; if the vanquished opponent is overrated, then does it matter if you’ve pulled an upset?
But in Bedlam, the chants that hurt the Cowboys the most came in the final two seconds. The OU student section chanted “Lit-tle Bro-ther” and “Just like football.” Ouch. Oklahoma tore the hearts out of the Cowboys with two touchdowns in the final minute on Dec. 7 in Bedlam Football.