By Jason Elmquist
STILLWATER — When the game was on the line, and Bedlam bragging rights up for grabs, Oklahoma State’s pair of McDonald’s All-Americans delivered.
In possibly the biggest Bedlam battle of the last decade, Marcus Smart and Le’Bryan Nash came through in the clutch to deliver the Cowboys a 84-79 overtime victory over rival Oklahoma in front of a crowd of 13,611 at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
“I’m really proud of our basketball team. They’re making me greyer and greyer by the day, but very proud of them,” OSU coach Travis Ford said after OSU’s fourth victory by five points or less in the past six games. “As I told our team, the reason we’ve been able to win some of these games is we’ve got good kids and we’ve got kids that are very close — a very close-knit team that believes in each other.
“They enjoy winning. We don’t do it pretty all the time, we’ve won in a lot of different ways ... and today fell in the category of just playing with a lot of heart.”
For Smart, Saturday was a chance to vindicate a poor performance against the Sooners in Norman a month ago.
In that road loss the freshman point guard found himself in foul trouble and never could get in a flow. Saturday, Smart scored a career-high and led all scorers with 28 points — thanks to going 11 for 14 from the free throw line and 3 for 4 from 3-point range.
“That game wasn’t a good game for me, I got into foul trouble early and the rest of the game I was frustrated and wasn’t able to be there for my team. I felt bad and that’s all I was thinking about this week was this game today and OU,” Smart said. “I just needed to come out and prove I was a better player, play right and I wasn’t going to let them frustrate me this time.”
As for the fellow former high school All-American, Nash took a half to finally get going, but did so at the right time for Oklahoma State (19-5, 9-3).
After scoring just 3 points in the first 20 minutes — largely due to playing just nine minutes because of foul trouble — the sophomore from Dallas went on a tare after halftime, scoring 23 points down the final 25 minutes. He was also the catalyst in overtime, scoring 7 of the 11 points put up by OSU in the extra frame.
“I thought he was very aggressive around the rim,” Ford said. “... It’s just a mentality for him. He got in a little bit of foul trouble, but when LB is locked in, he’s not bad.”
“Tough loss for sure,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “But it was a really good basketball game. Guys on both teams played their hearts out. It was a big-time battle from start to finish. Guys on both teams made a lot of big-time plays. Defenses were having a tough time getting stops.”
Both did, but the Cowboys got the one they had to have with 41 seconds left. OU point guard Sam Grooms, who came off the bench to play the best game of his career, was stripped by OSU’s Markel Brown for a steal at midcourt. Michael Cobbins scooped up the ball and turned it into a layup and an 82-79 lead.
OU (16-8, 7-5) never got off another shot.
“As far as the last couple plays, I don’t think there’s any way to explain it,” said Grooms, who scored a career-high 18 points and handed out game-high four assists. “I just lost the basketball, turned it over. I’ll remember that.”
Oklahoma State got double-digit scoring from Brown, who put up 14 points despite a 5-for-13 shooting night — which included a 1-for-5 performance from behind the arc. Freshman guard Phil Forte also scored 10 points in the victory, which saw the sellout crowd storm the court after the final buzzer.
“The crowd was huge, it made a difference for us. The crowd and the atmosphere was a difference maker for us — especially in a game like this where I didn’t think we were playing great,” Ford said. “You need that extra and they gave us that extra tonight. It was exciting.”
Romero Osby joined Grooms in scoring 18 points and pulled down 15 rebounds. The senior forward was a freight train in the second half, scoring the Sooners’ final 10 points in regulation.
The Cowboys, riding a seven-game win streak, will welcome No. 15-ranked Kansas to town Wednesday for a game that will have Big 12 Conference title implications (8 p.m., ESPN2).
“We gave the crowd a lot to look forward to, we’re on a nice win streak and we have a big game coming up this week against Kansas,” Brown said. “We can use their help any time of the day. We look forward to them being there.”
Jason Elmquist is sports editor of The Stillwater NewsPress. Norman Transcript’s John Shinn contributed to this story.