Hail Cezar!

Cezar Guerrero was compared to Reggie Miller not once, but twice following an instant classic in Gallagher-Iba Arena on Wednesday night.

The freshman guard put the Cowboys on his back and led them back from an 11-point deficit with four minutes remaining to a 90-85 overtime victory against Texas – San Antonio in front of a sparse gathering of roughly 4,000 fans.

Of his 29 points, which tied the OSU freshman record with James Anderson and Byron Houston, none were more exciting or important than his six point spurt in 4 seconds of game time in the waning moments of regulation, thus the comparison to Miller's famed eight points in eight seconds.

With the Cowboys (3-0) trailing 77-71, Guerrero flashed through the lane and converted an acrobatic layup and drew a foul with 12 seconds left. He stepped up to the line and sank the high-pressure free throw as the Cowboys hurried to get set up in a full court press with no timeouts remaining.

"When (Guerrero hit the free throw), I was yelling we had to get a steal," coach Travis Ford said.

Guerrero delivered, just as he had time after time throughout the game.

Guerrero deflected the Roadrunners' (2-1) inbounds pass and snagged it. He turned around and faced up to the basket, showing not a second of the indecision that often accompanies a freshman. He glanced down to make certain his feet were behind the 3-point line, then he rose and released the most vital of his 17 attempted 3's on the night.

And just as the aforementioned Miller did in the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals against New York in Madison Square Garden, Guerrero sank a cool, collected 3 to punch Oklahoma State's ticket to play in the very same storied hoops cathedral.

"We're going to New York," Guerrero said, unable to wipe the smile from his face. "That's one of those things on my bucket list, to be honest with you."

The Cowboys advanced to New York City for the next round of the NIT Season Tip-Off with the victory and Guerrero is the unquestioned reason why.

After sending the Pokes to overtime, Guerrero hadn't used up his heroics. He scored eight of the team's 13 points in the extra period, including a 3-pointer to give OSU an 87-85 lead and taking a charge on the other end to effectively seal the victory.

Le'Bryan Nash, who had 18 points and nine rebounds, was glowing about his fellow freshman after the game.

"Wow. I really believe in him ... We were just watching his high school mixed tape highlights earlier. And, he was showing me stuff he did in high school, and I've seen it in college now ... This kid's ridiculous, man," Nash said. "We all knew he could shoot, but man, that was a big three he hit to make it 77-77. He's a great performer."

And any great performer has a knack for theatrics and Guerrero has that part down cold. Guerrero, easily the flashiest and most energetic of the young Cowboys, won the hearts of the Cowboy fans who showered down chants of, "Cezar, Cezar, Cezar!" which echoed throughout a building that has played host to many a great performance since its doors opened in the late '30s.

"I've always thought of myself as a confident player. I believe in myself. It's confidence ... These guys give me the confidence and I just live with confidence," Guerrero said. "I'm confident in my own abilities. I know what to do with the ball in critical situations. I just live for these moments."

And thanks to Guerrero, the Cowboys' moment in the tournament lives on.

Guerrero stepped in for the Cowboys' senior captain, Keiton Page, who was held out of the contest with turf toe.

Guerrero had a message for Page before the game.

"I told (Page), 'I got you'. When he was putting on his regular clothes, I told him, 'I got you, don't worry about it. I'm here, I'm gonna support you and I'm ready to take on that role to become that leader for you,'" he said. "There's always moments for us to be leaders in this game and you've got to take your opportunity to be a leader on the court. Just take it, and flourish with it."

The freshman from Bellflower, Calif.,lived up to his end of the bargain.

He was 10-for-23 from the floor and connected on 8-of-17 3's, ranking as the second most in OSU history. He also had five assists and five steals.

Nash's 18 points were the second most, followed by Jean-Paul Olukemi's 12 and Reger Dowell's 11. Markel Brown chipped in seven points and eight rebounds, while Fred Gulley had six points, three rebounds and two assists. Philip Jurick had two points but hauled in a game-high 10 rebounds in 26 minutes as the Cowboys survived.

"I think our young basketball team grew up a little bit. I've been a part of a lot of comebacks as a player and coach. This was one of the most rewarding, but San Antonio (UTSA) is a better basketball team than us right now," Ford said. "They have four returning starters and went to Australia this summer. They are just further ahead of us and have really good players and coaches. I knew, even with Keiton Page, this would take a special effort.

"... To win the way we won with a young basketball team is very exciting. This is great because we can have this to refer back to. We told our players to believe in the system and someone is going to have to make a play. I told them I will manage the clock and call the timeouts, but against their zone, there was not much we could do. I told them it was in their hands and someone had to make a play. The biggest cheerleader who never gave up was (Cezar) Guerrero, he is the one guy in the huddle who kept saying we were going to win and would break the huddle with 'win'. True story."

While Guerrero might live for these moments, rest assured his performance will live on for years to come for the few Cowboy fans there to see it.


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