Texas defeats Oklahoma State to win Big 12 Tournament

Courtesy of Creative Commons

Courtesy of Creative Commons

     During Saturday’s Big 12 basketball tournament title game, Oklahoma State star Cade Cunningham finished with 29 points, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Texas and its balanced team effort as the Longhorns won, 91-86, to claim their first Big 12 tournament championship, as well as their first postseason conference tournament title since winning the Southwest Conference tournament back in 1995. 

     The Longhorns had four players reach double figures in scoring to outpace the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Senior guard Matt Coleman poured in a career-high 30 points, Jericho Simms had a career-best 21 to go with 14 rebounds, and the third-seeded Longhorns stayed calm during the tense final minutes to win the final. 

Cunningham had a brilliant 25-point second half performance, which allowed OSU to chip into Texas’ lead down the stretch. But Texas crushed OSU on the boards, 39-30, and consumed many second-chance opportunities.

Issac Likekele added 13 points and Kalib Boone had 12 for the Cowboys, who fought past No. 10 seed West Virginia in the first round, and then upset second ranked Baylor in the semifinals to reach their first Big 12 Tournament final since 2009.

     While the Cowboys looked exhausted early on, the Longhorns appeared fresh from the jump due to their day off. 

     They tracked down every loose ball, were quicker in transition and spent most of the first 20 minutes above the rim with a series of alley-oop dunks. Sims and Kai Jones did the most of damage with their size inside, but the Texas backcourt also provided plenty of balance and scoring. Coleman and Co. helped the Longhorns (19-7) stretch a 29-25 lead into a 43-33 advantage by halftime.

Cunningham finally hit the Cowboys’ first 3-pointer in the opening minutes of the second half. Cunningham added another moments later as Oklahoma State whittled an 11-point lead to 52-48. And when Texas stretched the lead again, he provided Anderson with a nifty pass to get within 66-59 with 8 minutes to go.

Foul trouble began to set in, though. Cowboys forward Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe was the first to foul out, and Anderson joined him on the bench when he picked up his fifth foul with Texas clinging to an 81-75 lead and 1:16 to go.

     After hitting the go-ahead foul shots with 1.8 seconds left in a 67-66 quarterfinal win over No. 20 Texas Tech, the senior guard camly made two more to give the Longhorns an 83-75 lead with 1:15 to go in the championship. The Longhorns held on from there for their seventh win over a Top 25 opponent this season.

     Oklahoma State finished the season on a toss, winning eight of its last nine before the Big 12 title game with a pair of over time victories. The Oklahoma State Cowboys beat six ranked teams in the past two weeks to build some NCAA Tournament momentum.

     Texas is starting to hit its walk, too, after playing just six games in 35 days due to positive COVID-19 tests in January and February. All seven of the Texas Longhorns’ losses this season have come against teams that were ranked at the time.