STILLWATER – Buddy Hield may be the reigning Big 12 Player of the Year and one of the favorites to be this season’s National Player of the Year, but the Oklahoma senior wasn’t the best player on the court Wednesday night. That honor goes to freshman Jawun Evans, who almost single-handedly led Oklahoma State to a stunning upset of the second-ranked Sooners.
Unfortunately for Evans and the Cowboys, Jeffrey Carroll’s catch-and-shoot three-pointer at the buzzer was just off target as the Sooners escaped with a 74-72 victory over the Cowboys at Gallagher-Iba Arena. Oklahoma has now won six Bedlam games in a row and eight of the last nine, and the Sooners improve to 14-1 overall and 3-1 in the Big 12, while OSU falls to 9-7 and 1-3.
But it was the play of the 6-foot freshman point guard from Dallas that energized the Cowboys against the Sooners. He finished with 42 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists (all tops on the team) as the Cowboys rallied from a 16-point, first-half deficit to almost steal the victory.
The 42-point scoring performance by Evans ties for the third best in school history behind Bob Kurland (58 points, 1946) and Randy Rutherford (45, 1995). Also, the 42 points easily breaks the OSU record for most points by a freshman in a single game (29 by Cesar Guerrero, 2011; James Anderson, 2007, and Byron Houston, 1989).
“Yes knowing I was going to play Hield, and it fired me up, but playing any team in the Big-12 fires me up. Playing against such a great player like that just makes me play even harder,” said Evans, who also broke the school record for most points ever scored by an OSU player against OU, breaking the record of 37 previously held by James Anderson (2009) and Leroy Combs (1981).
“I’m mad we lost the game,” the freshman said, “so I really couldn’t enjoy it.”
Evans entered Wednesday night's game averaging 10.4 points. His 42-point output is the sixth most by any player in the nation this season, and the third most by a freshman in 2015-16.
"Obviously, Jawun Evans was unbelievable,” Cowboys head coach Travis Ford said. “He just kind of got into a zone, and then we ran four or five different plays to try and create holes for him. He did a great job with making decisions. I thought Jeffrey Carroll really showed some grit in the second half after not playing very well in the first half. I thought a lot of guys gave us good minutes."
The Cowboys trailed 65-54 with less than eight minutes to play before rallying behind Evans, who scored 15 of OSU’s final 18 points over the last 6:23. He made the first free throw with three seconds left to pull the Cowboys within 74-72 but deliberately missed the second, and the ball bounced out of bounds off the Sooners with only enough time for Leyton Hammonds to inbounds the ball to Carroll for the catch-and-shoot three-pointer to win the game.
Evans finished 18 of 31 from the field, including making both of his three-point attempt, and was 4-of-5 from the free-throw line. He did have a team-high five turnovers but played 39 minutes.
His performance earned the praise of the Sooners.
"On tape he's a really good player,” said OU head coach Lon Kruger. “He's never done that before, that doesn't happen very often, but he pretty much had his way. We didn't do a good job of corralling him or containing him or keeping him from doing what he wanted to do."
“He made some great plays and some tough shots," said Hield, who led the Sooners with 26 points but committed 10 of OU's 19 turnovers. "He's a freshman and you don't expect him to make tough shots. He's a great player and he's done a great job so far. Next game we play him in, we just need to do a better job."
The Cowboys return to action Saturday when they go on the road to face the Texas Longhorns. Tip-off is scheduled for 5 p.m.