Naadir Tharpe connected on a short jumper in the lane with 16.5 seconds left in the second overtime, lifting No. 9 Kansas to a 68-67 win over No. 14 Oklahoma State on Wednesday night.
Travis Releford scored 18 points and Jeff Withey had three double-overtime free throws among his 17 points for the Jayhawks (22-4, 10-4 Big 12), who are tied with No. 13 Kansas State for the conference lead with five games to go. Kansas has had at least a share of the Big 12 regular-season title for each of the past eight years, but that streak was in jeopardy against the surging Cowboys.
Markel Brown scored 20 points to lead Oklahoma State (19-6, 9-4), which had won seven straight — including snapping the Jayhawks' 33-game home winning streak at Allen Fieldhouse earlier this month.
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State's star freshman, had 16 points but fouled out midway through the second extra period when he slammed into Releford after going airborne on a drive to the basket.
On the winning play, Tharpe isolated against Phil Forte and wiggled his way into the lane before popping in a jumper from the right side. Brown missed a jumper from the left wing with about 7 seconds left, and Releford dove along the sideline in front of Oklahoma State's bench to prevent the rebound from going out of bounds and instead let the final seconds tick off the clock.
Neither team led by more than six during the classic with championship implications, and both had their chances to win it at the end of regulation and each overtime.
Defense ruled the day, with the Jayhawks escaping on their only field goal in either overtime period. Kansas missed its other seven attempts from the field, but used the nation's best defense to limit Oklahoma State to a season-low 32.8 percent.
With so many misses, naturally, each team's star freshman had his share.
Ben McLemore, on pace to replace Danny Manning as the highest-scoring freshman in Kansas history, misfired on his first eight shots before making three in a row in the second half. He had a season-low seven points.
Smart started out 0 for 9 before finally hitting a fallaway jumper along the right side of the lane to cut Oklahoma State's deficit to 53-51 with 3:20 left in regulation. Forte tied it soon after, making a pair of free throws after coming up with a steal.
Smart came out of the game once after hurting his right shoulder and again after tweaking his right ankle in the first half. He then got socked in the face by Withey early in the second half. But it wasn't until he got his fifth foul that he finally couldn't return.
Elijah Johnson missed a pair of free throws with the chance to put Kansas up by five in the first overtime, only to have Brown return the favor on the Cowboys' end. But Johnson fouled out in the scramble for the rebound, and Brown then made both his attempts to draw Oklahoma State within 61-60 with 2:35 remaining.
After two free throws by Releford, Oklahoma State's Forte drilled a 3-pointer from the left corner with 56.4 seconds left to tie it at 63. The game went to a second overtime after McLemore air-balled a 3-pointer, Smart came up empty on a drive and Releford missed a driving attempt for Kansas. Smart's desperation shot from three-quarters court grazed the front of the rim.
The Jayhawks weren't able to close it out in regulation after Releford banked in a tricky scoop shot underneath for a 57-53 lead with 1:49 to play. Smart made one of two free throws at the opposite end and, after Withey missed inside for Kansas, he got out in transition for a 3-pointer to tie it with 1:11 to play.
Johnson crossed over Smart on a drive, getting him to fall down in the lane, but Michael Cobbins came over to the rescue and swatted Johnson's shot into the hands of coach Bill Self on the Jayhawks' bench. Brian Williams knocked the ball away from Tharpe to give OSU a chance at the win, but Smart missed a wild, off-balance jumper from the right wing and time ran out with the game tied at 57.