Survive And Advance: OSU Thwarts Butler Rally, Reaches Old Spice Finals
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida - For the second time in as many days, Oklahoma State allowed a comfortable, double-digit halftime lead to be whittled down to a single-possession game in crunch time.
But instead of shaking off the tryptophan like they were able to do against Purdue on Thanksgiving, the No. 5 Cowboys seemed to have a lid placed on their basket. Eventually, OSU needed a little luck, some lockdown defense and a game-saving block from Michael Cobbins at the buzzer to overcome a Black Friday upset special from Butler, surviving 69-67 to advance to the Old Spice Classic title game.
Oklahoma State led this game by as many as 16 points in the first half and held a 14-point advantage at the break, but a tough Butler team who is no stranger to a big games – having lost in the national championship in 2010 and 11 – was not out of it yet … not by a long shot.
Phil Forte drilled a 3 with 7:37 remaining before the Cowboys went the next 3:36 without a single point, but went relatively unscathed as a Marcus Smart jumper put the Pokes up nine with four minutes left.
OSU appeared to be out of the woods, but sometimes things aren't as they appear.
The Cowboys' scoring woes only compounded from there, as they wouldn't make another field goal the rest of the way. But fortunately for the Pokes, they happen to play some pretty good defense, too.
After a quick 8-0 run from Butler cut the lead to one with two minutes left, OSU locked down and didn't allow the Bulldogs to score another point.
The final minute of the contest was an exercise in how not to shoot free throws. Smart had two trips to the line in the final 50 seconds, coming up empty handed on three shots, the latter of which was the front-end of a 1-and-1 with 21 seconds remaining and OSU clinging to a one-point lead.
Smart wasn't able to come up with the clutch plays this time, but the same can be said for the entirety of the Butler roster. In the final 25 seconds, the Bulldogs missed two layups, a pair of free throws and had a potential game-winning 3-pointer wiped away by Cobbins at the buzzer.
While it was certainly not a game that will be tossed into the discussion for Smart's national player of the year campaign, the All-American sophomore still led the Cowboys in scoring with 17 points on 8-of-15 shooting with eight rebounds, three assists, two steals, a block and five turnovers.
Le'Bryan Nash was solid with 15 points and five boards on 6-of-14 shooting, while Kamari Murphy was the only other Pokes in double figures with 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting and eight rebounds off the bench.
The Cowboys (7-0) were clearly missing suspended freshman Stevie Clark on Friday, as Travis Ford only played eight men and out of the eight, Leyton Hammonds saw only one minute of action. The fatigue factor was an obvious factor in the latter stages of the contest, as OSU was held 30 points below its season-scoring average.
Butler (5-1) got 15 points from Elijah Brown, while Kameron Woods and Alex Barlow scored 12 each for the Bulldogs, who beat Washington State 76-69 yesterday to advance to play OSU.
OSU shot 50 percent for the game but shot just 40.7 in the second half as the Bulldogs rallied. Butler shot 39.7 percent for the game and were just 6-of-21 from 3-point range.
The Cowboys won the rebounding battle 35-33 and outscored Butler 40-26 in the paint.
With the hard-fought win, Oklahoma State improved to 7-0 for the first time since the 2006-07 season. Making the start even more impressive is that every opponent OSU has beaten has been undefeated up until facing the Cowboys, including Butler which suffered its first loss on Friday.
That streak of facing unbeaten's will end when Cowboys play in Sunday's title game, where they will face either LSU (4-1) or favored No. 21 Memphis (3-1). Memphis' only loss this season fittingly came against the Cowboys in Stillwater on Nov. 19. The title game is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN 2.