KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Andrew Wiggins once was hailed as the nation’s best basketball recruit. The presumptive No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft.
What goes around comes around. Don’t sleep on Wiggins as the star of March Madness and beyond.
Resurrected OSU lost to Kansas 77-70 in overtime Thursday, a rousing Big 12 Tournament quarterfinal in which the Cowboys survived the KU tradition and the Jayhawks’ eternal quest for a No. 1 seed come Selection Sunday. The Cowboys survived the Sprint Center, Allen Fieldhouse East, which KU has commandeered as a virtual celebration station.
But the Cowboys did not survive Wiggins, the elegant 6-foot-8 rookie who won his duel with Marcus Smart.
Smart played fiercely as always and often well. But Wiggins was spectacular. He totaled 30 points and eight rebounds, played stellar defense on Markel Brown and sank the game’s biggest shot, a baseline jumper with 1:05 left in regulation that gave Kansas a 67-67 tie when the Jayhawks seemed on the brink of departing early from the tournament they own.
The Cowboys, beaten but unbowed, move on to the NCAA Tournament themselves with a renewed sense of stature. Confident that OSU can go places (like the Sweet 16) it hasn’t been since Eddie Sutton was sheriff. In the NCAAs, OSU might come across a squad as formidable as Kansas and might come across an environment as tough as downtown KC. But the Cowboys will be hard-pressed to find a foe as dominant as Wiggins.
“I give him credit,” Smart said. “He earned my respect tonight. Like I said, you’ve got to earn my respect. And he earned it tonight.”
Back in October, Smart famously said Wiggins needed to prove himself. Consider Wiggins proven. He was coming off a 41-point game at West Virginia, and his scoring average of 18.3 points a game in Big 12 play is better than his average of 15.8 in non-conference. Wiggins is getting better and better, and the Cowboys are glad they’ve seen the last of him.
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