Cowboys are "Survivors" in Big 12 Opener

Oklahoma State visited Lubbock, Texas, and Bobby Knight and the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the Big 12 opener this season – the same conference stop as a year ago. Last season the Cowboys were blown out 83-62 by the Red Raiders.

Saturday afternoon was like a game of "Survivor" for the Cowboys as a big first half by the Raiders, major foul trouble and first-half shooting woes threatened to get the Cowboys tossed off the island, or in this case the West Texas desert. However, a sizzling three-point shooting performance with well timed makes, and an excellent performance by Joey and Stephen Graham, both playing with four fouls, allowed Oklahoma State to survive 76-66 to go 11-1 on the season and 1-0 on the season.

The second half was where the Cowboys turned it around with a hostile United Spirit Arena of 11,436 working against them and a national ESPN audience looking in. Down 36-29 at halftime to Tech, the Cowboys went on a 10-2 run early in the second half. Stephen Graham, who finished with 13 points while playing the second half with four fouls, got loose and drove the ball inside for a lay in, hit a half hook in the paint and drained four free throws in the run. His fourth free throw in the run gave Oklahoma State only its second lead in the game, and the first since the opening minutes, at 50-49.

A few minutes later point guard John Lucas, the Big 12's leading scorer, took over and pushed the Cowboys' lead to a more comfortable position. Lucas knocked down his fourth trey of the game to put OSU up 57-53. The next possession Joey Graham nailed down a three from the right wing and OSU led 60-53.

Ivan McFarlin was a major contributor as he finished with a double double, 14 points and 10 rebounds. JamesOn Curry came down the baseline and passed underneath to an open McFarlin for a key basket to keep the Cowboys up by seven, 62-57. Late in the game McFarlin rebounded a Stephen Graham missed free throw as the ball was tipped several times and McFarlin finished the possession with a bucket inside to give the Cowboys a 74-66 lead in just the 14th game matching two coaches with more than 700 career wins, Bob Knight and Eddie Sutton.

"I thought the players displayed a lot of courage in fighting back in the second half," said head coach Eddie Sutton. "I got on them pretty good at halftime. I felt like we hadn't been very aggressive. We fouled too much. Our defense wasn't that bad except for the fouling, but we'd turned the ball over 13 times and I felt like 10 of those were our mistakes and not Texas Tech's defense.

"The second half we came out and really responded. The defense was better, we didn't turn it over as many times, and we really rebounded. Steve came off the bench and hadn't practiced but he hit some big shots and Joey had a tremendous game scoring 25 points and 12 rebounds. Steve and Joey both played well and I would say in all the games they played together this was their best performance together," added Sutton.

Still, it was three-pointers that kept the Cowboys on top. Lucas hit two more in the second half, the first for a 65-57 lead, and the second for a 68-61 advantage. The most important trey may have been Steve Graham's that thwarted a Tech comeback and gave OSU a 71-66 advantage. The Cowboys also played their best defense of the day in the final three minutes of the game.

Texas Tech took the first half lead when Devonne Giles penetrated into the paint and scored drawing a foul for a three-point play and a 6-4 Texas Tech lead. The Red Raiders, who really had good execution on their motion offense, held the lead until that 10-2 run by the Cowboys in the second half.

Ronald Ross had 15 first half points and 22 for the game to lead the Red Raiders. Giles added 20 points and Jarrius Jackson had 16 for Tech which fell to 8-4 on the season.

Joey Graham lead all scorers with 25 points and combined with his brother for a 38-point showing for the Grahams. Stephen Graham's 13 points came despite a sore ankle which he had injured in Monday night's win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. John Lucas had 20 points with 18 coming on three pointers as he was 6-of-9 from behind the arch. Lucas also had five assists in the contest. Ivan McFarlin had his 14 points and 10 rebounds. Daniel Bobik was limited to four points as he fouled out due to a couple of bad calls including the fifth foul at the 9:05 mark in the second half. The Cowboys were monsterous on the boards, outrebounding Texas Tech a whopping 38-22, which was a big factor in the game.

"I'm very proud of the ball club," said Sutton afterwards. "I told them in the locker room that you can't win the conference unless you go on the road and win games. Texas Tech is a good basketball team, and they are going to beat a lot of teams, especially here (Lubbock). You know as the season progresses and you go on the road teams have lost some games and they are not so hard to play. Right now everybody in the league going in is 0-0. It's tougher to play on the road early because everybody thinks they can win the league."

The Cowboys play their next two games at home. Missouri comes in for an 8 p.m. tip at Gallagher-Iba Arena on Tuesday night. The Cowboys will host Iowa State next Saturday at Gallagher-Iba Arena.

This afternoon in Big 12 action Missouri came back from a late deficit to beat Iowa State 62-59.

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