Will Thanksgiving Come A Day Early?

Sean Sutton may be very thankful Wednesday night – just hours before the nation celebrates Thanksgiving – if all goes as the Oklahoma State basketball coach hopes it will. OSU will face Illinois in the third-place game at the EA Sports Maui Invitational at 3:30 p.m. (Central time), and high school standout Rotnei Clarke will announce his college choice live on a Tulsa TV station later that night.

"It could end up being a good day for us," Sutton said while looking ahead following Oklahoma State's 91-61 loss to 11th-ranked Marquette in a semifinal game of the eight-team tournament on Tuesday. Sutton would be pleased if the Cowboys can leave Hawaii winning two of three games, and securing a commitment from the Verdigris (Okla.) High School standout guard.

The Cowboys, now 2-2, struggled in every phase of the game against Marquette – shooting a season-low 39 percent from the field, turning the ball over 19 times and getting out-rebounded by 15 (while allowing the Golden Eagles 16 offensive boards).

Terrel Harris scored early in the game to pull the Cowboys within a 2-2 tie but the Golden Eagles went on an 11-0 run (including two three-pointers by Dominic James and another from Jerel McNeal). When the first television timeout was called with 15:38 on the clock OSU had committed five turnovers, and Marquette led 13-2. The Cowboys never recovered and it was an uphill struggle from that point on.

"I think they whipped us in every phase of the game – outplayed us, outcoached us, and they are a very good basketball team," Sutton said. "I think their aggressive play was the difference early. They got us back on our heels. One thing I really like about their team is they are always in attack mode. They attack you defensively, they attack you in transition, and always continue to put pressure on you."

Sutton and the Cowboys will get an opportunity to make the trip to Hawaii a successful one when they meet Illinois in the third-place game. The Fighting Illini, 3-1, suffered their first loss of the season to Duke in Tuesday's other semifinal game.

"The biggest thing is to come back tomorrow and play well. If we can come out of this tournament with two wins against an SEC team in LSU and maybe a Big 10 (Illinois) or ACC team (Duke), I think would be a real positive for a young team like ours," Sutton said before knowing who his opponent would be in Wednesday's third-place game.

For that to happen, Sutton will have to get better play from point guards Obi Muonelo and Byron Eaton. The pair of Cowboys combined for just six points and three assists, while turning the ball over four times. They shot 2-of-10 from the field, including 0-of-5 from three-point range.

"We're not getting as good of play there as we need to," Sutton said when asked about his point guards. "We're not getting as good of shots as I think we need to be getting, and a lot of that has to do with we're having a hard time getting into things. They've got to do a better job. This will be a good experience playing against the defense we saw today (with Marquette) and tomorrow. I think Marquette is probably one of the top defensive teams (in the nation)."

Freshman James Anderson, who finished with 14 points but was frustrated by Marquette throughout the game, is not an option at point guard, Sutton said.

"I think he needs to be off the ball because we want him involved and getting his shots. I thought he got a little frustrated today, which is not typical of him," the Cowboy head coach said. "I thought he forced some shots, and I think the physical nature of that game bothered him a little bit. I would expect that from a freshman, but I would have thought our veteran players would have responded a little better having played Texas A&M and Kansas, and some of the teams in our league."

Sutton said he received some advice from former Tennessee head coach Buzz Peterson when the two visited earlier this week. The Volunteers played in the 2004 Maui Invitational and won their first game (over Stanford) before losing 91-81 to North Carolina in the semifinals.

"One thing I tried to do today was get some of the starters out when the game got out of reach," Sutton said. "He said he made a huge mistake after the game was out of hand by leaving his starters in there (against North Carolina), and it really caught up with them the third day when they had to come back and play Texas in the third-place game, and Texas beat them pretty soundly.

"I tried to get Marcus out, Byron out, Anthony Brown out… I probably played Terrel too many minutes but hopefully I got some of those starters out so they'll be more rested for tomorrow."

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