I-Mac: Incredible Performance

OKLAHOMA CITY – The cover of the February issue of Go Pokes Magazine displayed the headline "Ivan the Incredible." Oklahoma State fans found that to be true on Sunday afternoon when the 6-foot-8 senior had the best game of his career in leading the Cowboys back to the Sweet 16 for the second year in a row.

McFarlin is the reason Oklahoma State will still be playing Thursday in the Chicago regional after scoring a career-high 31 points and grabbing six rebounds to lead the Cowboys to an 85-77 victory over Southern Illinois in the NCAA Tournament at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City.

OSU, 26-6, will face Arizona, 29-6, in a Chicago regional semifinal contest on Thursday at the Allstate Arena. The other semifinal game will have No. 1-ranked Illinois facing Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

But the Cowboys wouldn't have been thinking about facing the Arizona Wildcats if not for McFarlin's outstanding performance on Sunday.

"That was a great game by Ivan," OSU head coach Eddie Sutton said. "He's played some super games since he's been at Oklahoma State but I'm not sure if that's not the best game I've ever seen him play."

McFarlin, who earned the opportunity to play this season because he graduated in three and a half years, has been outstanding in the NCAA Tournament during his four-year career – averaging 13.1 points and 9.9 rebounds in nine tourney games prior to Sunday. But he elevated his game another notch against Southern Illinois, single-handedly keeping the Cowboys in the game in the first half by scoring 17 points to keep them within seven points (46-39) of the Salukis at halftime.

The Cowboys scored the first 12 points of the second half, including McFarlin's layup on a perfect pass from Joey Graham, to take a 51-46 lead. But the Salukis would not go away and regained the lead 52-51 on Darren Brooks' free throw minutes later.

That's when McFarlin took over. He hit two free throws and John Lucas hit a three-pointer from the corner to put the Cowboys back in the lead. After McFarlin missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity, he forced Joshua Warren into an offensive foul with his aggressive defense at the top of the key.

McFarlin's layup with 10:20 put the Cowboys up 58-55 and seconds later he found teammate Terrence Crawford wide open under the basket for a slam dunk.

"Ivan's been playing big. He played big last weekend (in the Big 12 Tournament) and stepped up more this weekend," said Cowboy point guard John Lucas. "He comes out every night and gives it all he's got. He's a senior and he's the captain of our team. We look at him for leadership on our team. When Ivan is on the court, and he starts yelling and you see him just fighting after the rebound and getting all the loose balls, it makes your energy even rise up too."

Joey Graham continues to struggle, finishing with just eight points and three rebounds, but is glad that he's able to call McFarlin his teammate.

"He played a wonderful, excellent game," Graham said. "We expect that out of Ivan, day in and day out. The thing that surprised me was his percentage from the field. He shot 10 for 13 and a lot of them were lay ups but his concentration was good. He did a great job today of concentrating and finishing around the basket."

Southern Illinois head coach Chris Lowery was impressed with what he saw from McFarlin.

"He (McFarlin) had 31 points – I think that was a huge difference," Lowery said. "He just dominated us physically. It was all toughness. I told our team it was a battle in the trenches and in the trenches he either got fouled or made the shot."

McFarlin's career high prior to Sunday was 27 points against Brigham Young during the 2003-04 season. He was 10-of-13 from the field and 11-of-12 from the free-throw line against the Salukis.

"I think I did a good job of just concentrating and focusing on hitting shots inside," said McFarlin. "I think my teammates did a good job of throwing the ball inside. I just concentrated on making sure that it went in. When I got the ball inside, I just tried to make a strong move and get to the bucket."

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