Cowboys Must Now Win Big 12 Tourney

There's good news and bad news following Oklahoma State's loss to Baylor. First, the bad news: the Cowboys know they must now win the Big 12 Tournament next week to get into the NCAA Tournament. The good news, however, is that OSU has won its last four games played at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City, the site of the Big 12 tourney.

The Cowboys, despite JamesOn Curry's career-high 40 points, sealed their fate and will now have to win four games in four days in the Big 12 tourney following Saturday afternoon's 86-82 loss to Baylor at the Ferrell Center in Waco. OSU, now 20-10 overall and 6-9 in the Big 12, is still winless (0-7) in true road games this season.

Oklahoma State, playing without Mario Boggan who was sitting out a one-game suspension by Sean Sutton for head-butting Kansas State's Cartier Martin this past Tuesday, appeared to be down and out when the Bears went up by 18 points with 11:20 remaining.

But Curry, the 6-3 junior guard who entered the game averaging 17.5 points, wouldn't let the Cowboys go down without a fight. Baylor was up 64-46 after Henry Dugat's conventional three-point play with 11:22 remaining, but OSU went on a 26-11 run – with Curry scoring 15 points, including 10 in a row at one point – over the next seven minutes to pull within 75-72.

Curry's three free throws – after being fouled while attempting a three-pointer – with 1:17 remaining once again made it an 80-77 game. He then stole the Bears' inbounds pass and called timeout before being tied up by a pair of Baylor players. David Monds missed from in the lane on the ensuing possession. The Cowboys' Byron Eaton had a wide open three-pointer from the corner a few seconds later, but the ball bounced off the back of the rim and the Bears rebounded. The Bears made six consecutive free throws in the game's final 41 seconds to sew up just their fourth conference win of the season, and just their fourth victory over the Cowboys in 24 games between the two teams since the Big 12 was formed.

"It was a tough loss," Cowboy head coach Sean Sutton said. "We put ourselves in position there late to have a chance. We did not play well at all in the first half, and then at the start of the second half. JamesOn and Kenny (Cooper) gave us a huge lift on the offensive end. To get 56 of our 82 points from those two guys, and they certainly played up to their potential, but we had some other guys who did not play like we needed them to today with Mario being out. That's the bottom line."

Curry was phenomenal in scoring his career high 40 points. He was 12-of-18 from the field, including 7-of-10 on treys, and sank all nine of his free throws. In addition, sophomore Kenny Cooper scored a career-high 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting.

Curry becomes just the fifth player in the history of Cowboy basketball to score 40 or more points in a game, and scored the most points in a game since Randy Rutherford's 45 points against Kansas on March 5, 1995. The other former Cowboys to break the 40-point mark include Bob Kurland (58), Rutherford (45), Arlen Clark (42) and Ed Odom (41).

Freshman Obi Muonelo, returning from a broken fibula which he suffered in mid-December, played for the first time in more than two months. He only saw action for three minutes in the first half, and did not score.

The Cowboys will finish the regular season with Monday night's makeup game at Nebraska. The game was originally scheduled for Jan. 13 but was postponed when OSU couldn't make it out of Oklahoma City because of inclement weather.

The Big 12 Tournament will start Thursday and the Cowboys, who can now finish no better than seventh place in the conference standings, will play in one of the four first-round games. Who and when the Cowboys play is yet to be determined.

"The first thing we've got to do is win Monday night (at Nebraska)," Sutton said. "By winning Monday night that will create some momentum. We need to win a game on the road. I felt like today would be the day, even with Mario not playing, and probably would have if we'd had some guys player better and played better defense."

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