STILLWATER, Okla. — After he’d missed time and time again all night long, for some reason Naadir Tharpe’s final attempt just felt right when it left his hand.
And what a shot it was for No. 9 Kansas.
Tharpe connected on a short jumper in the lane with 16.5 seconds left in the second overtime, lifting the Jayhawks over No. 14 Oklahoma State 68-67 on Wednesday night for a critical win in the Big 12 championship race.
Tharpe had made only one of his first 11 shots, and Kansas (22-4, 10-3 Big 12) hadn’t made a field goal in either overtime, before one finally fell through at just the right time.
“I knew I just had to make a play," said Tharpe, who was filling in at the point after starter Elijah Johnson fouled out.
Travis Releford scored 18 points and Jeff Withey had three double-overtime free throws among his 17 points for the Jayhawks, 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 — to move into a three-way tie for the league lead.
“Our whole focus is just to win the Big 12," Releford said. “Teams beat us. We knew we weren’t going to run the table and go undefeated.
“Unfortunately, it just happened they beat us at home. We just were focused to come in and try to get a win."
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.
“It’s a hard pill to swallow," Brown said. “I felt like this game could have went either way. A double-overtime game, it was a tough one out there."
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.
The Jayhawks’ best-in-the-nation defense limited Oklahoma State to a season-low 32.8 percent shooting. Kansas missed its first seven shots after regulation, only escaping after Tharpe’s play in crunch time.
“Neither team had any offense and he certainly made a huge play there late. Just huge," coach Bill Self said. “Biggest play of his life, I’m sure."
Also on Wednesday:
No. 3 Gonzaga 85
Santa Clara 42
SPOKANE, Wash. — Elias Harris scored 17 points and Gonzaga crushed Santa Clara, the ninth win in a row for the Zags.
No. 8 Syracuse 84
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — James Southerland scored 20 points, Michael Carter-Williams had 15 points and 12 assists, and Syracuse won its 38th straight at home.
No. 11 Georgetown 90
WASHINGTON — D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera scored a career-high 33 points — the most by any Georgetown player this season — and the Hoyas moved back into a tie for first place in the Big East.
No. 12 Arizona 70
TUCSON, Ariz. — Solomon Hill had 19 points, Mark Lyons added 14 and Arizona pulled away after an uninspired start to beat Washington.
No. 18 Ohio State 71
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Deshaun Thomas overcame a slow start to score 19 points and Ohio State used a 16-0 second-half run to cruise past Minnesota.
No. 19 Wisconsin 69
EVANSTON, Ill. — Jared Berggren and Ben Brust each scored 12 points, and Wisconsin shut down Northwestern for its fifth win in six games.
No. 21 Memphis 81
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Adonis Thomas scored 22 points, Chris Crawford had 11 points and a career-high 13 rebounds as Memphis won its 17th straight.
No. 22 Colorado Stat 59
LAS VEGAS — Anthony Marshall’s short jumper just inside the free-throw line went in with 7 seconds left to lift UNLV to a victory over Colorado State.
Arizona State 69
Washington State 57
TEMPE, Ariz. — Carrick Felix had 23 points and 11 rebounds, Jahii Carson scored 21 and Arizona State earned its 20th victory of the season by beating Washington State.