Lucas: We Have Our Swagger Back

John Lucas is the first to admit that the 2004-05 basketball season hasn't gone exactly as he and his Oklahoma State University teammates had planned back when practice began in October. The plan would have been another magical season similar to last year's 31-4 record and almost everything going the Cowboys way from the start of the season until the last few seconds of a Final Four semifinal game with Georgia Tech.

Cowboy fans began talking about this season about 30 minutes following OSU's last-second loss to Georgia Tech in the national semifinals a year ago. So did Lucas and the other five seniors returning from last season's squad.

"The only way I'll be satisfied with this year is if we go back to the Final Four and get that title," Lucas said back in October.

Lucas still believes that way today, less than 48 hours from OSU's first-round NCAA Tournament game against Southeastern Louisiana (tip off is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Friday). The OSU point guard plans to be in St. Louis playing for the national title on Monday, April 4, even though this season has not been anything like last year's magical run.

"It has been a different year than last year but that's just how stuff falls," Lucas said earlier this week. "Last year a lot of people didn't expect us to do what we did, and this year everybody expected us to do what we did last year because of all the things we accomplished last year. We're taking it game by game, and we're going out there and playing hard."

Thanks to Lucas the Cowboys won the Big 12 Tournament this past weekend and enter the NCAA Tournament on a roll after defeating Colorado, Kansas and Texas Tech. In Sunday's Big 12 title game, Lucas and Joey Graham took over in the final five minutes after Texas Tech had rallied to take a 59-53 lead. But Lucas and Graham would not let the Cowboys lose – scoring 15 of their team's final 19 points for the 72-68 victory.

Lucas streaked down the court for a fastbreak lay up after a Red Raider basket to cut the lead to four. Minutes later, after Graham's conventional three-point play gave the Cowboys a one-point lead, Lucas drilled a three-pointer for a 67-63 lead with just 1:34 left to play. He added what would be the game-clinching free throw with just four seconds remaining.

"We have our swagger back," Lucas said of the Cowboys, who are 24-6 entering the NCAA Tournament. "We're on a mission right now. Everybody's mindset is to take it to another level than what it was, and that's what I like to see. Everybody is starting to get the concept that it's coming down to the last few games, and we want to be one of those teams that goes far."

With seniors like Lucas, Joey Graham, Ivan McFarlin, Daniel Bobik, Terrence Crawford and Stephen Graham experiencing success like few others to ever wear the OSU uniform – they have compiled a 55-10 record and won two Big 12 Tournament titles and a Big 12 regular season crown – there is not much that will phase this team.

"We shouldn't be scared of anything," Lucas said. "We've played in a lot of different atmospheres (the past two years). We played with our backs against the wall last year in East Rutherford, and now we're at home (in Oklahoma City). Nobody should be too excited or too anxious because we've been here before and we know what we need to do to accomplish what we want to accomplish."

Lucas is not shy about saying what the Cowboys are hoping to accomplish the next three weeks.

"I want to win the national championship, not just for myself but for coach (Sutton) and also for the fans who have supported us," he said. "Since spring break is on now, I don't have any school work that I need to attend to or any classes or any other responsibilities right now. My responsibility is getting ready and getting prepared mentally for all the upcoming games.

"I like pressure and I like having a lot of expectations because it makes me go out there and compete and play hard. From day one, I said we were going to win and we've had a winning season but it's not what we thought, not what everybody wanted it to be. But to us we're having a winning season, we won the Big 12 Tournament when a lot of people didn't think we were going to accomplish that."

Lucas, however, knows the ultimate goal is just six victories away.

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