Best Performances In School History

The following story was written about six weeks ago for inclusion in the February issue of Go Pokes Magazine, which should be arriving in subscribers hands within the next 7-10 days. We don't normally place articles from the magazine on the web site, but considering the circumstances surrounding Tuesday night's basketball game we are making an exception.

Since professor Boyd A. Hill first rolled the basketball onto the court for the first game ever played by Oklahoma A&M College nearly 99 years ago there have been some outstanding players proudly wear the orange and black. Names like Clifford Dean and Ab Wright were among the earliest players in school history to earn recognition on the basketball court in the 1920s.

Every Cowboy fan knows about the outstanding careers of the school's only three-time All-American Bob Kurland, Bryant "Big Country" Reeves, and most recently John Lucas. Those three players – and numerous others – made significant contributions to the storied success of Oklahoma State basketball. Kurland, Reeves and Lucas not only had outstanding careers but they also turned in some of the best single-game performances since the above-mentioned Professor Hill coached the first basketball team in 1907-08.

We at Go Pokes Magazine like to live life dangerously. Why else would we try to compile a list of the best single-game performances in the 99-year history of Cowboy basketball? And then to show that James Bond has nothing on us, we decided to rank the top 10 moments in order.

What follows is our list of the top 10 single-game performances in school history (with the 10th best outing listed first, followed by the ninth, eighth and so forth with No. 1 at the end).

No. 10
Rick Cooper and Cowboys
send Mr. Iba out a winner
Rick Cooper was a 6-foot-5 senior from Drumright who hadn't even lettered his previous season as a junior. But on a night when 7,400 Cowboy fans squeezed into Gallagher Hall to bid farewell to Henry Iba, who was coaching his final game after 36 years as head coach at OSU, Cooper and his teammates stepped up with a performance that few who were there that night have forgotten. Cooper, Sparky Grober, John Robinson, Bob Buck and Paul Mullen all scored in double figures (surpassing their career averages in the process) as Oklahoma State upset rival Oklahoma 77-61 on March 7, 1970, to send Iba out a winner.

The victory improved OSU's record to 14-12, and in the process ended a three-game losing streak. Most importantly, it gave Iba the 767th victory of his career (635 which came coaching at Oklahoma State), and was his 50th career win over the rival Sooners.

Cooper, who averaged just 7.4 points during his Cowboy career, scored a team-high 17 to help send Iba out a winner. Robinson (10.0 career average) contributed 14, while Grober (6.7) and Buck (12.0) each added 13. Mullen (9.3) was the other Cowboy in double figures with 12.

Iba was honored at halftime with 71 of his former players on hand. The highlight of the ceremony was the presentation of a bronze bust of Iba donated by former players to the school. Bob Kurland, speaking on behalf of the former players, said, "Secondary to his being the greatest coach in the world, is the wonderful influence he had on all of those who played for him."

No. 9
Bob Mattick sets
NCAA scoring record
On March 13, 1953, Henry Iba's sixth-ranked Aggies traveled to Manhattan, Kan., to face Texas Christian University in NCAA Regional play. Bob Mattick, the 6-10 junior center from Chicago, led the Aggies to a 71-54 victory over the Horned Frogs to set up a showdown with the Kansas Jayhawks with a berth in the national semifinals on the line.

The Aggies had compiled a 22-6 regular season record and were ranked in the nation's top 10 all season. They had little trouble with the Horned Frogs as Mattick scored a career-best 35 points (which more than 53 years later still ranks as the best NCAA Tournament single-game scoring mark in school history). The Oklahoma A&M junior made 13 of 18 shots from the field and added nine free throws as the Aggies won by 17 points. Mattick's previous high was 29 points in a 71-44 victory over Houston on Jan. 11, 1952.

The victory over the Horned Frogs set up the third meeting of the season between A&M and Kansas. The two teams had split the first two games with the Cowboys winning 79-58 in Stillwater and the Jayhawks capturing a 65-53 victory in Lawrence. KU won 61-55 in the NCAA Regional final to advance to the national semifinals in Kansas City.

No. 8
Arlen Clark scores 42 points
against Colorado Buffaloes
Oklahoma State's record was 10-13 as the 1958-59 season was drawing to an end, and the Cowboys were just looking to play their final two games and begin looking ahead. So it came as a complete surprise when Arlen Clark took matters into his own hands when the Colorado Buffaloes arrived in Stillwater on March 7, 1959.

Clark scored 42 points, at the time the second most in school history to Bob Kurland's 58 (see No. 1 below), to lead Oklahoma State to a 66-51 victory over Colorado. The 6-8 senior center was 9 of 10 from the field and was perfect on 24 consecutive free throws against the Buffaloes. Clark fouled out three Colorado players as the Buffaloes tried to slow him down, but nothing worked.

The 24 free throws made (which still stands as the school single-game record) increased Clark's consecutive streak to 40. He finished the season leading the Cowboys in scoring (20.4 points), rebounding (5.7) and free-throw percentage (201 of 236 for 85.2 percent).

No. 7
Houston, Jordan, Dumas help
knock off top-ranked Sooners
The young Cowboys – Byron Houston was just a freshman while Thomas Jordan and Richard Dumas were sophomores – had something to prove when the No. 1-ranked Sooners came to Stillwater on Feb. 4, 1989. Jordan blocked seven shots and Houston rejected six as the Cowboys set a Big Eight record with 16 blocked shots and knocked off the top-ranked Sooners 77-73.

"It was easily the Cowboys' grandest victory in over three decades," wrote longtime Tulsa World Sports Editor Bill Connors. "There has been nothing to rival it since OSU defeated Wilt Chamberlain and Kansas, 56-54, in 1957."

Houston finished with 11 points, 12 rebounds and 6 blocks. Jordan was just as good with 15 points, 10 rebounds and 7 blocks. Dumas contributed 19 points and 13 rebounds for the Cowboys, who would finish the season with a 17-13 record and earn a trip to the NIT.

The Cowboys outrebounded the Sooners 55-43, and held All-America candidates Stacey King (18 points) and Mookie Blaylock (14) to 17 points below their averages of 26.4 and 22.9.

No. 6
Mel Wright's buzzer beater
defeats KU, Wilt Chamberlain
Kansas and 7-footer Wilt Chamberlain walked into Gallagher Arena on Feb. 21, 1957 with a 17-1 record and ranked among the nation's best teams. KU had defeated OSU 62-52 just 10 days earlier with Chamberlain scoring 36 of the Jayhawks' points. But head coach Henry Iba had his team ready, and an overflow crowd of 9,000 crammed into Gallagher Arena, and another 1,000 watched via a closed-circuit broadcast in the college auditorium.

In a see-saw battle the Jayhawks tied the game 54-54 with 3:49 remaining. But that would be the last time KU head coach Phog Allen's team would touch the basketball. Iba instructed his team to hold the ball for one final shot, and they ran the clock down to 13 seconds when guard Mel Wright was instructed by Iba to go for the final shot.

OSU radio announcer Hal O'Halloran's call went as follows: "Thirteen seconds. Tied up. Off to Mel Wright on the right-hand sideline. Ten, nine, eight, seven. Mel Wright out there deep comes up behind the circle takes a long right-hand jump shot. HE HIT IT! HE HIT IT WITH ONE SECOND! THERE'S THE BALL GAME! THE AGGIES HAVE UPSET KANSAS! THE AGGIES BEAT KANSAS!"

Eddie Sutton had a team-high 18 points while Wright finished with 10, and was carried off the court on the shoulders of Cowboy fans after hitting the game-winning shot. "That was no doubt the greatest game and the greatest experience of my life," Wright said a year ago while recalling the 56-54 victory over the Jayhawks and Chamberlain.

Tulsa Tribune Sports Editor Jack Charvat wrote, "Even Coach Iba was jumping after the climax. He had seen his team whipped handily by the Kansans in an earlier engagement in Lawrence and he admitted after the ball game that the victory provided: ‘One of the biggest thrills of my coaching career.'"

No. 5
Leroy Combs leads Cowboys
to first ever Big Eight title
Oklahoma State had never won a game – six consecutive first-round losses – in the Big Eight postseason tournament. But the Paul Hansen-coached Cowboys changed that in the 1983 tourney, winning three games in six days to capture the school's first Big Eight postseason championship. The Cowboys needed every ounce of desire to defeat 12th-ranked Missouri 93-92 in double overtime on March 13, 1983, securing a trip to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 18 years.

Combs, a 6-8 center from Oklahoma City, was the reason the Cowboys were able to advance despite three starters – Matt Clark, Raymond Crenshaw and Lorenzo Andrews – fouling out of the game. Combs was named the tournament's most outstanding player after scoring 34 points on 11 of 16 shooting and grabbing 11 rebounds.

"Leroy had an awesome game," Cowboy coach Paul Hansen said. "It was the biggest win for Oklahoma State in many a year."

Andrews had one of many big plays in the game as he drove the length of the floor after a missed Missouri free throw with nine seconds left in the first overtime period. The Cowboy guard's twisting lay up with only one second remaining tied the game and sent it into a second overtime.

OSU lost to Princeton, 56-53, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament's West Regional, and finished the season 24-7.

No. 4
John Lucas hits game winner
to send Cowboys to Final Four
Lucas, the Oklahoma State point guard, made just six of his first 19 shots – and was just 2 for 11 from three-point range – in the first 39:53 of play in the NCAA Tournament East Rutherford (N.J.) final on March 26, 2004. But Cowboy fans don't remember the 13 misses by Lucas. All they remember is the game-winning three-pointer with 6.9 seconds remaining to give Oklahoma State a thrilling 64-62 victory over St. Joseph and a trip to the Final Four.

When St. Joe's standout Jameer Nelson's game-tying attempt missed at the buzzer the celebration began for OSU fans. Lucas, who finished with 19 points and was named outstanding player of the East Rutherford Regional, raced into the stands where he embraced his father, John Lucas Jr.

"That was one of the biggest shots for Oklahoma State in a long, long time," Cowboy head coach Eddie Sutton said afterwards.

The 5-10 Lucas had put the Cowboys up 61-59 with a short running jumper with 41 seconds left but St. Joseph answered when Pat Carroll nailed a three with 29 seconds showing on the clock for a 62-61 lead. On the winning play Lucas and Joey Graham were attempting a pick-and-roll at the top of the left wing when Graham lost control of the ball. He tipped the ball to Lucas who was wide open on the wing for the game-winning shot.

"I made sure my elbow was in line, my legs were underneath my shot and let it go. It was the biggest shot in my life," said Lucas.

Unfortunately, the Cowboys would lose to Georgia Tech, 67-65, on a last-second shot by Will Bynum, in the semifinals of the Final Four, and finished the season with an impressive 31-4 record.

No. 3
Bryant "Big Country" Reeves
dominates second-ranked KU
The Kansas Jayhawks, ranked second in the nation with a 17-2 record, never knew what hit them when they arrived in Stillwater for an ESPN Big Monday showdown on Feb. 6, 1995. Reeves scored 33 points and grabbed a career-high 20 rebounds – the first and only player in OSU history to record such a double-double – to lead the 24th-ranked Cowboys to an impressive 79-69 victory over the Jayhawks.

"I don't think I've ever seen him play any better. It was an All-American performance," OSU head coach Eddie Sutton said afterward.

"It was maybe the best game of my career," said Reeves, who went on to have outstanding performances a few weeks later in the NCAA Tournament against Antonio McDyess of Alabama, Tim Duncan of Wake Forest and Marcus Camby of UMass to get the Cowboys into the Final Four.

KU jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead but Reeves showed right away what the Jayhawks could expect when he took a lob pass and took the ball straight to the basket. He was fouled and sank the two free throws. "First play out of the box, we wanted to take it down inside and see what I could do on (KU's 7-2 Greg Ostertag)," said Reeves, who made 10 of 15 field goals and 13 of 16 free throws for his 33 points.

Reeves was clearly the best 7-footer on the court as he dominated Ostertag, who managed just eight points and two rebounds in 18 minutes of action.

No. 2
Bob Kurland leads A&M Aggies
to second consecutive NCAA title
Bob Kurland scored six of the Aggies first seven points and was the dominant factor as Oklahoma A&M defeated North Carolina, 43-40, in front of a Madison Square Garden crowd of 18,479 on March 26, 1946, to win the school's second consecutive NCAA Tournament championship. The 7-foot Kurland was dominant in all phases of the game en route to scoring a game-high 23 points and being named the Outstanding Player in the Tournament for the second consecutive year.

Kurland scored 11 points in the first half as the Aggies took a 23-17 halftime lead. Then he converted a three-point play during an 8-0 run which gave A&M a 31-18 lead just five minutes into the second half. Any chance of a Tar Heel comeback appeared to disappear when 6-foot-6 North Carolina center Horace McKinney fouled out just a minute later.

North Carolina pulled within 36-33 but Kurland, going against 6-2 Bob Paxton, once again took control by scoring the game's next seven points. Kurland eventually fouled out in the game's final minute, but the Aggies stalled away the remaining time to finish the year with a 31-2 record, including 15 consecutive victories.

"As expected Kurland proved to be the difference between the two finely coached quintets. Remarkably graceful for all of his 84 inches, the big redhead was all over the court. The center of almost every Cowboy offensive play, Kurland was equally adept on defense, and in addition to hauling a majority of the balls off the opposing team's backboard, he tapped away at least four ‘sure' baskets," the Associated Press story on the championship game read.

No. 1
Bob Kurland scores
school-record 58 points
Oklahoma A&M head coach Henry Iba predicted when the 7-foot Kurland arrived in Stillwater as a freshman that some day "he'll become one of the greatest offensive men in college basketball." On Feb. 22, 1946, Iba allowed his senior center to prove he knew what he was talking about when the Aggies played St. Louis University in Stillwater.

Kurland had led the Aggies to the NCAA Tournament championship in 1945, and set a single-game scoring record of 32 points that season. But no one was prepared for what happened when "the seven-foot Missouri giant apparently was ‘turned loose' tonight by the Aggie strategist, Coach Hank Iba, and instead of assuming his customary role and ‘feed' or ‘decoy,' he took all his shots – and his teammates seemed to revel in his glory," the Tulsa World story read the next day.

Through the game's first four minutes it appeared that St. Louis would give the NCAA champion Aggies a run as the Billikens jumped out to a three-point lead. Kurland then took over, scoring three quick baskets to put A&M on top, and the Aggies never looked back. Kurland scored 32 of the Aggies' points as they raced out to a 38-16 halftime lead. Those 32 – in the first half – tied the school single-game record he'd set a year earlier.

In the second half, teammates like A.L. Bennett, Sam Aubrey and Joe Halbert kept feeding the ball inside to Kurland. He scored another 26 points in the second half to surpass what was then the single-game NCAA scoring record of 53 points held by DePaul's George Mikan.

"Iba was jubilant over the scoring record set by the lanky All-American who he has tutored and trained for the past four years. It was one of the last home games for Kurland and a fitting climax to his great cage career," the Tulsa World story said.

The humble Kurland refused to comment on his performance after the game.

The Tulsa World's headline the next day said it all: Ags 86, Bills 33 – Kurland 58

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