Cornhuskers Win Round One

What did the Oklahoma State basketball team learn in its final regular season game of the season? Probably the most important thing the Cowboys learned Monday night was that if they plan to make a serious run in the Big 12 Tournament later this week it may have to be on the shoulders of an 18-year-old freshman.

Obi Muonelo, seeing extensive action for the first time in nearly three months, was one of the few bright spots Monday in OSU's 85-73 loss to Nebraska in Lincoln, Neb., in the regular season finale. The 6-5 guard scored a career-high 24 points (in just 29 minutes of action) while making 8-of-11 three-pointers against the Cornhuskers.

Point guard Byron Eaton also had a career high, finishing with 25 points, but Oklahoma State lost its eighth Big 12 Conference road game of the season, and became the first Cowboy team since 1979-80 to finish the regular season without winning a true road game.

If there was anything positive for the Cowboys, now 20-11 after finishing the season with eight losses in their last 10 games, it would have to be the return of Muonelo, who had not played since fracturing his fibula in mid-December.

"I wanted to give him as many minutes tonight as possible to regain his confidence," Cowboy head coach Sean Sutton said of Muonelo, who got the first start of his college career. "For us to win the Big 12 Tournament he has got to be a big part of this team. I felt like starting him tonight, instead of bringing him off the bench, and putting him right in the heat of the battle ... I think it certainly helped his confidence. He shot the basketball extremely well, and made some excellent passes. I just think the fact he was out there will make it even easier for him on Thursday."

The Cowboys, who fell behind by as many as 29 points (54-25) early in the second half before rallying to cut the Cornhusker lead to seven (77-70) in the game's final minutes, won't have to wait long for a chance at revenge against Nebraska. The two teams will face each other in a first-round game of the Big 12 Tournament at 6 p.m. Thursday in Oklahoma City.

"It starts Thursday night at 6 o'clock for us. Despite losing tonight there's some good things we can take away from this game. I thought Obi and Byron both gave us great effort shooting the basketball," Sutton said. "We can go back and try to fix some of the things we didn't do as well tonight, and try to take that away from Nebraska Thursday night.

"Nobody said it was going to be easy but it's certainly possible when you have a team that can score the ball like we can," Sutton said of winning the Big 12 Tournament and earning the conference's automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. "One of the things that was encouraging is we've now shot the ball well three consecutive games, and I think that is going to be a big key if we're going to go down there and make a run. I think the other thing is that we have such great fans. I think that's going to be an advantage in our favor."

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