STILLWATER — Markel Brown and Michael Cobbins rode the shoulders of Oklahoma State students who’d stormed the court and wanted to celebrate.
Marcus Smart posed for photos with giddy Cowboy fans.
Then amid the joy that erupted inside Gallagher-Iba Arena — hard to blame the Cowboy faithful for spilling onto the hardwood after an 84-79 overtime victory against Oklahoma — Travis Ford took the microphone.
“We could not have done this — not a chance — without you guys here,” the Cowboy coach said. “Thank you for coming out.”
The crowd roared, but Ford, dressed in a bright orange blazer, pressed on.
“Thank you for bringing the rowdy back. This is what Gallagher-Iba is supposed to look like.”
And this is what Bedlam is supposed to be like.
After several seasons of dud games in this series, this was no clunker. This was two good teams playing at a high level. This was a back-and-forth nail-biter.
This was a classic.
“A really good basketball game,” Sooner coach Lon Kruger said. “I thought guys on both basketball teams played their hearts out. Guys on both teams made a lot of big-time plays.”
That, they did.
Ford told his guys in the locker room that so many of them made so many big plays that he couldn’t possibly name them all or they’d have been there the rest of the afternoon.
Big plays, though, were what this rivalry needed. It needed memorable moments. It needed instances that could be talked about for years to come, lamented by one side, celebrated by the other.
And big plays come in a game like this.
For the last 21 minutes, 32 seconds of this game, neither team led by more than two possessions. Even though both teams had an 11-point lead at one point in the game, neither could pull away from the other in the second half.
When OU went up five points with 3:27 remaining, it seemed like an even bigger lead than that because of how close the game had been.
But that’s when the string of big plays started.
First came Le’Bryan Nash, having the best day of his career, taking a pass from a driving Markel Brown and slamming it home to cut the Sooners’ late four-point lead to two. Then Phil Forte stepped in front of a cross-court pass and went in for an uncontested layup.
Like that, the game was tied.
Then Romero Osby rose up and hit a silky smooth jumper.
Then Marcus Smart made a ridiculously tough shot off the glass.
And all the while, the Gallagher-Iba crowd roared. This was a sellout, which has become rare for the Cowboys, but more than that, it was a packed house. People bought tickets and used them.
Before the game, lines of fans snaked around the arena. It was such a scene that word about how many folks were out there made its way into the Cowboys coaches’ inner pregame sanctum. Someone came in and told Ford that the line was past the Wrestling Hall of Fame.
It was a great scene, even for the Sooners.
“As a basketball player, you live for that,” Osby said. “Just wish we could’ve come out with a win.”
The Sooners were only a couple plays from it.
They trailed by one with a little less than a minute left in overtime. Sam Grooms, having the game of his career, was bringing the ball up court when Brown picked his pocket. Poked the ball clean away.
Even after Michael Cobbins scored an easy two, the Sooners still had a chance to tie the game.
That’s when Smart came up with another one of those big plays. He forced a jump ball when he blocked Steven Pledger’s shot, then held on for dear life.
A few moments later, the Cowboy faithful was flooding the court and the celebration was on.
“I think the atmosphere was great,” Grooms said. “I haven’t been around for that long, but from my understanding, it felt like an old Bedlam game.”
That it did.
Felt like an oldie and a goody.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.