MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

OSU

November 30, 2013

OSU advances to Old Spice tourney finals, wins squeaker over Butler

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Oklahoma State won for the second straight day after blowing a comfortable lead.

Marcus Smart scored 17 points as the No. 5 Cowboys survived a major scare in a 69-67 win over Butler in an Old Spice Classic semifinal on Friday.

“A great game,” Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said. “It was very emotional and very high-level. It felt like an NCAA tournament-type game. Two teams that were wanting to win really badly.”

Oklahoma State (7-0) again came out flat to start the second half, one day after the Cowboys saw a 23-point halftime lead dwindle to four with 3 minutes to play before beating Purdue 97-87.

“We’re not paying attention to details as much as we are in the first half,” Ford said.

With the Cowboys holding a 68-67 lead in the final minute, Smart missed three free throws, including the front end of a 1-and-1.

Butler’s Khyle Marshall was fouled with 8.4 seconds remaining, but missed both free throws.

“It’s always tough to lose,” Butler coach Brandon Miller said. “When you lose, and it’s a one-point game or a two-point game, sometimes you can beat yourself up over one mistake here, one mistake there, especially at the end of the game. I think mistakes, or a lack of execution, or a missed shot at the end of the game sometimes gets highlighted more than what it should.

“Basketball is a 40-minute game. We didn’t execute very well at the beginning of the game. The first half of the game got us.”

Le’Bryan Nash made it 69-67 by hitting 1 of 2 from the line before Butler’s Elijah Brown had his last second 3-point shot blocked by Michael Cobbins.

Nash added 15 points for the Cowboys, who will face No. 21 Memphis, a 76-69 winner over LSU in the other semifinal, in Sunday night’s championship game.

“My first initial thought is Oklahoma State is a heck of a basketball team,” Miller said. “Obviously, very talented. When you have one of the best players, if not the best player in the country in Marcus Smart and the way he fights and leads his team, he sets the standard for his team.”

Butler (5-1) got 15 points from Brown. Kellen Dunham, who set a tourney record with 32 points in Thursday’s 76-69 victory over Washington State, finished with nine, while Marshall, coming off a 30-point performance Thursday, had eight.

This was the first meeting between the teams since Butler beat Oklahoma State 49-26 on Feb. 12, 1934.

Alex Barlow keyed Butler’s initial surge by connecting on a pair of 3-pointers to get the Bulldogs within 48-41 five minutes into the second half.

Phil Fotre made two long-range jumpers and Smart had a couple driving baskets as Oklahoma State responded and grabbed a 66-57 lead with 6 1/2 minutes to play.

Dunham and the Bulldogs made a final run, pulling within 68-65 with three minutes remaining when the guard hit a 3 and then converted a three-point play. Smart had the ball stolen by Erik Fromm on Oklahoma State’s next possession and Marshall got a rebound basket at the other end to make it 68-67.

“In the second half, we weren’t scoring quite as much. We were taking some questionable shots that led for easy points for them,” Ford said.

Nash had 10 points, helping Oklahoma take a 44-30 halftime advantage. Five different Cowboys’ had at least six points during the opening 20 minutes. Smart had a slam and Markel Brown made a jumper to give the Cowboys their biggest lead of the first half, at 44-28, 1:48 before the break.

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