Rivalries are what bring color and animation to college basketball. On Monday night, the second showdown in three days of the Bedlam series between No. 16 Oklahoma and No. 17 Oklahoma State brought that and more in the Cowboys’ 79-75 victory.
There was Cade Cunningham, the potential No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, throwing haymakers down the stretch after being stymied for much of the game. There was homegrown Sooners star Brady Manek, ridding a slump by scoring the most points in a game since his season-opener. There were in-game adjustments … and then adjustments being made within those adjustments. Two coaches standing on Eddie Sutton Court X’s and O’ing their way through some of their most tactically sound seasons.
Between the 40 minutes affair that came roughly 48 hours removed from an overtime thriller in which OSU escaped Norman, Oklahoma, with Cunningham’s heroics, there were nearly a dozen different lead changes in a back-and-forth battle that ended with the Cowboys completing the sweep after beating their in-state rival Saturday as well.
Cunningham on Saturday was the catalyst that drove the Cowboys to victory, scoring a career-high 40 points and becoming the first college player since Steve Novak in 2006 to have at least 40 points and 10 rebounds against an AP Top 10 team. On Monday, he couldn’t buy a bucket, leading to Kalib Boone, Bryce Williams and Avery Anderson filling the scoring void for much of the game. But once Cunningham got going with his first field goal of the game at the 7:18 mark of the second half, he suddenly couldn’t keep from coming up clutch. He finished with 15 points, seven boards and four assists and put the game on ice with four late free throws. 10 of his points came after he popped the lid off with his first made field goal; OU as a team in that span scored 11 points.
OU stayed resilient to the end, with Austin Reaves accounting for 12 of his 19 points in the second half and coming up big with buckets to keep it interesting down the stretch. And Manek had a team-high 20 points to spearhead the offensive production. But Manek’s missed 3-pointer with 21 seconds remaining — which would’ve tied the game and perhaps sent us to two OT games in three days — all but ensured OSU’s first sweep of OU since 2017 was imminent.
The postseason projection for OSU, a No. 4 seed in Jerry Palm’s Bracketology entering Monday, does not drastically change with the outcome, nor does it for OU, a No. 6 seed entering the evening. But the win puts OSU in elite company tied for the most Quadrant 1 wins in college hoops, setting up an interesting two-game stretch to close the regular season against No. 3 Baylor on Thursday and No. 5 West Virginia on Saturday.