If Oklahoma makes the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team and Oklahoma State doesn't, the selection committee isn't paying attention.
The Cowboys kept alive their hopes of reaching the NCAA Tournament with a 71-60 triumph over the Sooners in a Big 12 Tournament opening-round game on Wednesday at the Sprint Center.
The eighth-seeded Cowboys can take an even bigger step with a victory on Thursday.
Big 12 champion Kansas awaits, and the season’s results suggest Oklahoma State won’t be intimidated by the prospect of facing the tournament’s top seed.
The Cowboys became the first team since 2001 to post a regular-season sweep of Kansas, completing the task last weekend in Stillwater. KU had swept or split with its previous 101 Big 12 opponents.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton said the regular-season success won’t have an impact on Thursday’s game, which will tip around 2 p.m.
“What would make it harder to beat somebody three times versus one,” Boynton said. “They’re a really good team to beat, ever.”
But Boynton said he didn’t know that KU 7-footer Udoka Azubuike will miss the tournament because of a sprained knee ligament.
“News to me,” Boynton said. “Obviously changes their team. He’s a big factor in there for them ... we will have a different approach if we don’t have to worry about doubling a guy like that in the post.”
Oklahoma State, which improved to 19-13, entered the game with a No. 90 RPI, a figure not usually associated with an NCAA Tournament at-large team.
But beating Oklahoma gave the Cowboys another quality victory, and they could collect an even bigger one by knocking off Kansas for a third time.
Oklahoma State scored the game’s first five points and never trailed. The Cowboys opened a 39-28 halftime lead.
Cameron McGriff, who finished with 18 points, delighted Oklahoma State fans early in the second half with a flying dunk from the baseline, followed quickly by his three-pointer. The Cowboys' lead reached 16.
But Oklahoma battled back behind Trae Young. A couple of Young three-pointers and his nifty pass that led to a Khadeem Lattin layup closed the score to 52-48 with 9:41 remaining.
Oklahoma State put it away with a late 6-0 run that restored a double-digit deficit.
The Cowboys dominated the boards, 53-27, which led to a 19-2 advantage in second-half points.
For Oklahoma, its late season woes continued. The Sooners were ranked fourth in the nation in mid-January with a 14-2 record. Wednesday’s loss dropped them to 18-13.
The early-season success should be enough to hang on to an NCAA Tournament berth, but Oklahoma has been trending in the wrong direction for weeks.
Same with Young, the nation’s leading scorer, who had tallied 18 or fewer points in three of the last five games. Young, announced as the Wayman Tisdale Award winner as the nation's top freshman by the United States Basketball Writers Association on Wednesday, finished with 22 points against Oklahoma State, but missed 14 of 21 shots.