It’s not often when you can score only one field goal in two overtime periods and still come out a winner, but thanks to a clutch shot with 18 seconds to play in double overtime by Naadir Tharpe, the Kansas Jayhawks can say just that, as they survived with a 68-67 road win, Wednesday night at Oklahoma State.
The win puts Kansas (22-4, 10-3) into a first place tie with Kansas State and avenges a home loss on February 2. It also puts them back into the driver’s seat to claim a ninth consecutive Big 12 regular season title.
The win came on a night where neither team could amass more than a five-point lead. In fact, Kansas led from about the 17:00 minute mark of the second half until the early minutes of overtime. Still, one could not get the feel that anyone was in control and for Kansas, that meant sweating out a grind of a victory, in which a loss all but assured that there would be no conference title.
As the game wore on, it became a war of attrition, with both teams losing players to fouls. When the Jayhawks lost Elijah Johnson, there was wonder for who would step up to hit a shot when desperately needed.
Thanks to 18 points from Travis Releford and 17 points and 14 rebounds from Jeff Withey, the stage was set for someone to come in and play the role of hero. That person would end up being Tharpe.
“I said, ‘You won the game. It’s the biggest play you ever made in your life,” Self said.
After Tharpe’s shot over Oklahoma State’s Phil Forte, the Cowboys (19-6, 9-4) had a chance to win the game, but Markel Brown missed a shot with under 10 seconds remaining and when Travis Releford batted the ball away from Brown, as it had bounced to the sideline, time expired and Kansas had survived.
The Jayhawks will come home to face TCU, Saturday afternoon, in a game that will see them trying to avenge another loss a few weeks ago. The day will also see Kansas celebrate 115 years of basketball, with a ceremony at halftime, honoring the program’s tradition.