Cowboys, Lucas Come Up Short

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- John Lucas saw flashbacks to March 26, 2004 when his three-pointer from the wing gave Oklahoma State a come-from-behind victory over St. Joseph's and a berth in the Final Four. This time Lucas' potential game-winning three-pointer bounced off the front of the rim in the last few seconds and Kansas held on for a thrilling 81-79 victory Sunday afternoon in front of a national television audience and sold-out crowd at Allen Fieldhouse.

Lucas grabbed the basketball after the final horn sounded and as the KU players celebrated around him launched another three-pointer from the top of the key – and hit nothing but net. But it was too little, too late for the fourth-ranked Cowboys who fell out of first-place in the Big 12 with the loss.

"I'm a leader on this team and I want to be the man that takes that shot," said Lucas, who made his first nine shots Sunday before missing his last two.

Why did he shoot the ball after the game was over? "I just wanted to see what was wrong with that rim," Lucas said with a smile on his face. "That shot was supposed to go in."

If it had it would have been a thrilling end to an outstanding basketball game which showed the entire nation that both OSU and Kansas are among the top teams in the country.

The Cowboys, now 20-5 overall and 10-4 in Big 12 play, were in an excellent position to win when freshman JamesOn Curry hit a pull-up jumper from the baseline with 4:19 remaining in the game to give OSU a 78-72 lead. Little did anyone know that would be the Cowboys' last basket of the game.

KU, which improved to 21-4 overall and takes over first-place in the Big 12 with an 11-3 record, made it 78-76 when Wayne Simien hit two free throws and Keith Langford scored a bucket.

OSU's Daniel Bobik missed a three-pointer on the Cowboys' next possession but Terrence Crawford kept the ball alive and Curry grabbed the offensive rebound. Curry was trapped in the corner and quickly called a timeout with 2:26 remaining. On the possession after the timeout Crawford missed from point-blank range and Simien grabbed the rebound.

Simien tied the game 78-78 with another two free throws – he was 10-of-11 from the charity stripe in the game – with 1:31 remaining.

Lucas, who had been perfect up until the final minutes with 22 points, three assists and no turnovers, had a chance to put the Cowboys back on top but his runner in the lane bounced off the rim and into the hands of KU's Jeff Hawkins. Aaron Miles' driving layup gave KU its first lead in nearly seven minutes with just 39.4 seconds remaining.

OSU head coach Eddie Sutton called a timeout to set up a play with hopes of getting a victory and ending his 0-10 streak as the Cowboys' head coach at Allen Fieldhouse. Curry, who played more like a fifth-year senior than a freshman, saw an opening and drove to the basket when he tried to slam home a dunk to tie the game. But he was fouled by KU's Christian Moody with 25.9 seconds left. Curry missed the first free throw but made the second to pull OSU within 80-79.

Lucas then fouled Miles after the Jayhawks in bounded the ball. The KU senior missed the first throw and made the second with 19.9 seconds remaining. OSU attempted to get the ball into the hands of either Curry or Joey Graham in the final seconds but couldn't and Lucas was left to take the last shot. And it almost went it before Ivan McFarlin grabbed the ball and tossed it toward the basket without any success as time expired.

"The play was set up for me or JamesOn but they switched on everything," said Joey Graham, who finished with 19 points and four rebounds, "and they forced John to shoot a hard shot."

It's amazing the Cowboys even had a chance to win on a last-second shot when you consider KU shot 66 percent from the field and only had 10 turnovers. But OSU was almost as good – hitting 58.5 percent from the field and turning it over just nine times.

But the Cowboys could not find an answer for Simien, who scored a career-high 32 points (his previous high was 31 against Missouri last March) and grabbed 12 of the Jayhawks' 23 rebounds.

"He's a thoroughbred," Lucas said.

"I don't think I have ever been a part of a better basketball game," KU head coach Bill Self said. "The atmosphere was great, the stakes were high, the game was well-officiated, they (OSU) only had nine turnovers and we had 10. Certainly for me it was an honor to coach in this game. I think the players will look back and say it was an honor to play in this game and the fans will look back and say they were here for this game."

Joey Graham agrees with Self.

"It was a great game. I think it was the best college game I've ever played in," he said. "I think we definitely will see them in the Big 12 finals."

The Cowboys now must get some help in order to win their second consecutive Big 12 regular season title. KU, with a one-game lead, would have to lose its final two games (vs. Kansas State at home on Wednesday night and at Missouri next Sunday) and the Cowboys would have to win their final two regular season games.

OSU plays its final two games at home, beginning with Wednesday night's game against Texas A&M at Gallagher-Iba Arena. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m.

The final game for six OSU seniors – Daniel Bobik, Terrence Crawford, Joey Graham, Stephen Graham, John Lucas an Ivan McFarlin – will be next Saturday night inside Gallagher-Iba Arena.

GoPokes Top Stories