Tramel: Cade Cunningham's 40 points & Oklahoma State's overtime victory remind us how great Bedlam can be
A victory push from Kalib Boone. Chest bumps from Isaac Likekele, Chris Harris and Bernard Kouma. A head hug from Keylan Boone.
Before this wild Bedlam basketball game even was over — settled, but not over — Cade Cunningham’s teammates were in a celebratory mood. With 7.8 seconds left, Oklahoma State finally had a safe lead and Cunningham had a historic 40 points.
Soon enough, the Cowboys had a 94-90 overtime victory over the seventh-ranked Sooners, Cunningham had his place in Bedlam history and we all had the best of both worlds. The thrill of a great game, and the anticipation we get to turn around and see the same teams play in 48 hours, Monday night in Stillwater.
“Appreciate what you’re watching,” OSU coach Mike Boynton said of Cunningham, a freshman who might be the best player in college basketball and certainly lost no votes Saturday. “It’s special. I’m not surprised, that on the biggest game on our schedule, on the road, he stepped up and was ready to compete at the highest level.”
It’s been a long time since college basketball, collectively, has been this fun in this state. Back in the Billy Tubbs-Eddie Sutton-Kelvin Sampson days, gems like this were commonplace. But for at least a decade of Bedlam hoops, if one team was up, the other was down. If one team was down, the rival might be down, too.
Not Saturday. This was a national stage, and Bedlam lived up to the name.
“Heck of a ballgame,” said OU coach Lon Kruger. “What games like that are supposed to be.”
Cunningham’s 40 points were the second-most ever by a Cowboy in Bedlam, trailing only Juwan Evans’ 42 five seasons ago. OU’s Trae Young scored 48 against OSU three years ago. But both of those explosions were in losses.
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Cunningham’s 40 came in a rousing victory that will zip the Cowboys up the NCAA Tournament projections.
“Getting the win was how I wanted to put my print on Bedlam,” Cunningham said. “Having trust in my coaches and teammates allowed me to get 40, but we played to win. Who knows if 40 points will happen again?
“We knew how much this game meant for us and the school. Just seeing my team come out, take it personally for all the OSU alums and everybody going there right now ...”
Cunningham scored 10 points in overtime. Six of those were in the final minute, with the Sooners desperately trying to rally. But Cunningham also scored 10 points in the final five minutes of regulation. That’s 20 points in the game’s final 10 minutes.
“Big-time players make big-time plays,” OSU’s Avery Anderson said. “Cade’s a big-time player. He came through in the clutch for us. Cade is a beast.”
Cunningham also had 10 rebounds. According to ESPN Stats, he’s the first player in 15 years with at least 40 points and 10 rebounds against a Top 10 team.
But the Sooners didn’t go quietly. They led as late as the 1:32 mark in overtime, until Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe’s putback gave OSU an 86-85 lead. Then Cunningham’s steal allowed the Cowboys to control the game from the foul line.
Bedlam was a little strange. Limited capacity. The atmosphere didn’t boom. Danged pandemic.
But the stakes were high and the drama was higher.
“They've been talking about it, pretty much the whole season, how big Bedlam was for us,” said Cunningham, who’s been on campus only since June but knows the lay of the land. “I knew how much it meant. I tried to carry that mentality into the game. I think that’s why we played with such grit today.”
The joy was evident. After those final 7.8 seconds ticked off, the celebration resumed, this time with OSU assistant coaches. Cunningham got a hug from his brother, Cannen Cunningham, and a grab dance from Scott Sutton.
All within the context of knowing the fun resumes Monday night in Stillwater. Heck, OSU’s victory forged a two-way tie for fourth place in the Big 12 standings, at 9-6. The 4-5 seeds in the Big 12 Tournament play March 11. Let’s play three. Nobody on either side of Bedlam would mind after a spirited Saturday that reminded us how great rivalry basketball can be.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.