Cowboys Defeat Cyclones, Face Jayhawks

If the Oklahoma State Cowboys play like they did for the first 24 minutes on Thursday night the Kansas Jayhawks are in trouble. On the other hand, the Jayhawks will win easily if the Cowboys don't play any better than they did in the final 16 minutes against Iowa State. Oklahoma State, despite leading by 18 early in the second half, held on for a 79-70 victory over Iowa State on Thursday night in a first-round game of the Big 12 Tournament in Dallas.

The Cowboys, now 17-14, face the Jayhawks, 22-7, in a quarterfinal game at 6 p.m. Friday.

The Cowboys, the seventh seed, won the game by outscoring the Cyclones 9-2 in the final 1:40 to capture the win after allowing Iowa State to come back from an 18-point deficit to pull within two (70-68) in the final two minutes. The OSU victory avenges a 68-52 loss to Iowa State just two weeks ago in Ames, Iowa.

JamesOn Curry's 15-foot jumper with 1:40 remaining was a huge basket for the Cowboys after Will Blalock's two free throws had pulled the Cyclones within two. Jamaal Brown stripped Curtis Stinson of the ball on the Cyclones next possession and found Mario Boggan for a breakaway lay up to put the Cowboys back up by six. The Cowboys then made five of eight free throws – four by Brown – in the final 49 seconds to sew up the win.

OSU played one of its best halves of the season during the first 20 minutes. The Cowboys' first 33 points were scored by post players with Torre Johnson coming off the bench to score 15 (on 7-of-7 shooting) in the first half. Boggan had 14 points and six rebounds as the Cowboys took a 40-27 halftime lead.

"I thought for the first 25 minutes we probably played as well as we have all season long," said OSU head coach designate Sean Sutton. "We built an 18-point lead and then we went through a period of time that I thought we got tentative on the offensive end, quit being aggressive, and defensively lost some of our aggressiveness as well. Overall, it's a very good win.

"The first game (of a tournament) is always the most important. In a lot of ways it's the toughest because you never know how guys are going to respond in a tournament situation. But I thought our guys relaxed, they were focused and they played with a lot of confidence throughout the game," Sean Sutton continued.

"Coach really emphasized to the guards to get the ball inside, and he told me he needed me to be more aggressive on offense now that we're in the tournament. I just went out and went hard at the defender and it worked to my advantage in the first half," said Johnson, who finished with 20 points and 5 rebounds. Boggan contributed 23 points and 9 rebounds, while Monds had 8 points and 10 rebounds.

The Cowboys appeared as if they were going to blow the Cyclones away when Curry hit back-to-back three-pointers and Brown hit a trey of his own to open the second half. A tip-in by Monds and Boggan's conventional three-point play on a fastbreak lay up gave the Cowboys a 54-36 lead with 15:48 remaining in the game. But the Cowboy offense then went through a dry spell – not scoring a basket for more than six minutes – and the Cyclones began pressuring the Cowboy into turnovers. After having just seven turnovers in the first half the Cowboys committed 11 in the second half, and allowed Iowa State to get back in the game.

"One of the things that allowed us to keep the lead is we were aggressive against the press, and threw over the top two times for lay ups," Sean Sutton said. "JamesOn's shot may have been the biggest play of the game. One of the timeouts late we really challenged them and said, ‘We have to have some stops,' and we went out and got four straight stops during that time, and pushed it back up to seven or eight points."

The Cowboys were playing in a first-round game for the first time since 1999, when they won three consecutive games to advance to the championship game. The Cowboys, seeded fifth, defeated Baylor, Oklahoma and Texas before running out of gas and losing to Kansas in the title contest.

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