Cowboys, Jayhawks to Meet Again

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Eddie Sutton and his staff spent three days this past week working to improve the way his Oklahoma State basketball team has been playing defense in recent weeks. He's hoping it improves quickly – like in the next few hours – or else his 10th-ranked Cowboys could be in trouble against the Kansas Jayhawks. The Cowboys, 22-6, will meet the Jayhawks, 23-5, in a Big 12 Conference Tournament semifinal game at 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon in Kemper Arena.

OSU is fortunate it is still playing Saturday after the stubborn Colorado Buffaloes wouldn't go away after trailing by as many as 12 in the second half. The Cowboys held on for the 87-85 victory when Marcus Hall's three-pointer at the buzzer clanked off the rim.

The Cowboys will have little rest. Friday night's game didn't end until 11:05 p.m. (Central time) and they are scheduled to return to the court – to play what many consider to be one of the nation's best teams – just 16 hours later.

But Sutton and the Cowboys would be returning home if not for some excellent free-throw shooting against the Buffaloes. Oklahoma State made 27 of 31 free throws in the foul-fest (the two teams were whistled for 47 fouls), and needed every single on of them.

Joey Graham and John Lucas made six of seven from the charity stripe in the final minute as the Cowboys held on after leading 80-71 with 4:50 remaining. Graham's two free throws with 7.8 seconds remaining gave the Cowboys an 87-84 lead.

OSU's Daniel Bobik fouled CU's Jayson Obazuaye in the backcourt with 5.0 seconds left so that the Buffaloes would not have a chance to attempt a three-pointer to tie the game. Obazuaye made the first of his two free throws to make it a two-point game. He then missed the second but OSU's Ivan McFarlin and Stephen Graham both grabbed the rebound and were whistled for traveling.

That set up one last effort by the Buffaloes. Lucas was playing good defense on Hall and contested the shot, but it appeared to have a chance before clanging off the rim.

Sutton knows the Cowboys will have to play much better if they want to repeat as the Big 12 Tournament champions. After all, KU's Wayne Simien scored a career-high 32 points in the Jayhawks' 81-79 victory over the Cowboys two weeks ago.

Colorado's Julius Ashby, who entered the game averaging 6.7 points per game, scored a career-high 19 points on 9-of-10 shooting on Friday night. Sutton knows that Ashby is nowhere close to the player that Simien is.

"We'll have to play a lot better," Sutton said. "The biggest thing was our defense. We've been telling you all along that this team is not very good defensively. I thought we would be better. I think we spent three days working really hard on defense. But our guards didn't contain the penetration and our big guys didn't step off and help like they need to, and we also allowed the ball to go inside too easily."

Joey Graham led the Cowboys with 24 points while Lucas contributed 18, McFarlin finished with 16, JamesOn Curry added 14 and Bobik had 10.

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