STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) – The special formula of a spectacular Myck Kabongo and an effective full-court press provided the most thrilling victory Texas’ disappointing season and the biggest comeback of Rick Barnes’ tenure.
Neither one could make an impact on the road at No. 15 Oklahoma State.
Markel Brown scored 18 points, Le’Bryan Nash added 16 and the Cowboys corralled Kabongo to beat Texas 78-65 on Saturday.
A showcase of two of the Big 12’s marquee point guards ended up being a sloppy one, with Kabongo committing a career-high seven turnovers against frequent double-teams while the Cowboys’ Marcus Smart had five.
“I don’t know why Myck wasn’t doing the things we asked him to do,” Barnes said. “We knew that would happen. We had three guys out there that played the point, four really.
“I think Myck got caught up in it a little bit, trying to do it too much by himself.”
Oklahoma State (22-6, 12-4 Big 12) took advantage of two of Kabongo’s turnovers to score the final eight points of the first half and start an 18-2 run that carried beyond halftime. By the time it was over, the Cowboys were firmly in front at 47-33 after Nash drove through traffic for a right-handed slam.
Texas (13-16, 5-11) never got within 10 points after that.
The Cowboys sent two defenders at Kabongo at every chance, forcing him into mistakes or simply getting the ball out of the hands of Texas’ top scorer. The Longhorns had won three of five after Kabongo returned from a 23-game NCAA suspension, and he had a career-best 31 points in the win against Oklahoma in his last game.
Kabongo ended up with a season-low seven points and eight assists, missing five of his seven shots.
“We actually talked a lot about him today not having the ball in his hand. He didn’t get in there and do as much with it, but it wasn’t just him,” Barnes said. “It was the other guys not moving the ball and guys getting stagnant.”
Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said he focused so much on stopping Kabongo during the Cowboys’ game preparations that he had second thoughts over whether he had been too dismissive of the rest of the Longhorns.
“We put a big emphasis on slowing him down,” Ford said. “Their last five games that he’s played in, that ball’s been in his hands 90 percent of the time. We thought he was a pretty big key to their team.”
In the first 16 minutes, Smart didn’t score and committed all five of his turnovers. He played a clean game after that, ending up with 11 points, four steals and three assists.
“You can always count on him coming back and doing something positive,” Ford said. “His stat line is always amazing. He always ends up with great stats. … It doesn’t overly concern me because I know we’re going to get something out of him. But when he’s locked in from the beginning, it obviously makes our team that much better.”
Julien Lewis returned after missing the last game with a concussion and led Texas with 15 points, hitting four of 11 from 3-point range. Javan Felix scored 13 points.
Barnes decided to play his second-leading scorer, Sheldon McClellan, just 7 minutes. He did not score.
“We know our guys. We know when they’re engaged, we know when they’re focused and that’s what we base it on,” Barnes said. “I think those guys will tell you if they’re doing what we want them to do, they can make mistakes. We don’t expect them to be perfect. What we want: We want guys engaged.
“We’re around these guys every day of the year almost. We know when they’re focused, like Myck had a tough day today and he fought it. He was trying to do it, maybe do too much.”
The Longhorns tried to deploy their full-court press, but couldn’t duplicate their comeback from a 22-point deficit in the final 8 minutes of regulation in an overtime win against Oklahoma on Wednesday night.
Oklahoma State was able to handle the pressure without much trouble, using it to create easy scoring chances.
Phil Forte grabbed a press-breaking outlet pass and hit an open 3-pointer from the left wing, and Brown converted a three-point play on the Cowboys’ next possession after getting a high-arcing runner to go over the corner of the backboard and fall in. His ensuing free throw stretched the lead to 65-46 with 7:31 remaining.
“Everybody wants to know why you don’t press all the time. Well, certain teams obviously handle pressure more than other teams,” Barnes said. “We don’t want to have to get behind and scramble all the time.”
Ford said he watched Texas’ comeback against Oklahoma twice, trying to analyze why it happened.
“I figured we could be right back in that situation. We had our guys watch it, too,” he said. “We controlled things on our end the way we needed to. They turned us over a couple times, we were lackadaisical but by that time, the game was in hand.”
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