KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Texas finally won the Big 12 Tournament championship.
Don't try telling the Longhorns they didn't earn it.
After getting a free pass through the semifinals when Kansas withdrew due to a positive COVID-19 test, and avoiding mighty Baylor once they reached the title game, embattled coach Shaka Smart's bunch took advantage of the situation Saturday night with 91-86 victory over No. 12 Oklahoma State.
Matt Coleman poured in a career-high 30 points, Jericho Simms had a career-best 21 to go with 14 rebounds, and the third-seeded Longhorns stayed poised during the tense final minutes to win for the first time in seven trips to the finals.
“This is a gift to everyone, whether they've supported us or not,” said Smart, whose future at Texas was in question after last season. “And there's a lot of people that have supported us, and we're grateful for it. But the most important thing is our guys stayed connected, and I'm just happy they get to experience this feeling.”
It's the first conference tournament title for Texas since winning the old Southwest Conference in 1995.
“We’ve earned just a little bit of respect from, well, anybody, you know?” Coleman said. “And not that we’re searching for respect. We knew in each other what we had, what we could do.”
Freshman star Cade Cunningham had 29 points to lead fifth-seeded Oklahoma State (20-8), including a pair of 3-pointers in the final minute, the second of them pulling his plucky team within 89-86 with 6 seconds to go.