Obi, Cowboys Get Rowdy In Big 12 Opener

STILLWATER – The "rowdiest arena in the country" was rocking Saturday afternoon. Oklahoma State had the 11,005 Cowboy fans inside Gallagher-Iba Arena going wild by scoring on 10 consecutive possessions in the second half en route to a 74-55 victory to spoil Texas Tech head coach Bobby Knight's attempt to become the first Division I men's basketball coach to reach 900 wins.

The Cowboys, who had played their last four home games (all victories) in front crowds of fewer than 6,200 people in the 13,611-seat arena, drew their largest crowd of the season and had Gallagher-Iba Arena sounding like the days when Joey Graham, Tony Allen and John Lucas were leading their teams to back-to-back Final Four and Sweet 16 appearances.

It was pleasing to head coach Sean Sutton and his players to have the fans back making a difference.

"(The crowd) made a huge difference with our guys. I think they've been somewhat down that the crowds haven't been better. I told them that they would have an opportunity again when they came, and they had to respond. I thought today they did that," Sutton said.

"Our crowds through the years have helped us win a lot of games. Just the overall intensity level of our team was a lot better today. Part of it was because it was a conference game but a big part of it was the crowd. They can play a huge role in the rest of our season if we have an atmosphere like that every time our for the last seven conference games."

Sophomore Obi Muonelo and freshman Ibrahima Thomas certainly gave the Cowboy fans reason to cheer. Muonelo, who was averaging just 7.9 points through the first 14 games of the season, scored a game-high 21 points – including 14 in a row during a 23-3 run during a nine-minute stretch midway through the second half.

Thomas, the 6-11 post from Senegal who was averaging just 4.7 points and 3.7 rebounds, contributed a career-best 16 points and eight rebounds in just 25 minutes of play. Freshman James Anderson (13 points) and senior Marcus Dove (10 points and six rebounds) were the other Cowboys scoring in double figures.

Muonelo was 7-of-9 shooting, including making five of the six three-pointers he attempted, while Thomas made 5 of his 6 shots from the field.

"That was a lot of fun. It was good to have our shooters back," Dove said. "It was good to have the atmosphere in Gallagher-Iba that we are used to in Big 12 play. I think they crowd really willed us to this win. It was good to have the crowd back."

"This is what we have been looking for from Obi. We need some kind of fire power off the bench and he can provide that at anytime. I think he was feeling it today. He had one (three-pointer) when Coach Sean was trying to set up the offense and before he shot it, I turned to Martavius (Adams) and told him, ‘Obi is going to shoot it.' He was definitely feeling it."

The Cowboys led just 44-38 four minutes into the second half but then used the 23-3 run over the next eight minutes to take control. Muonelo scored 14 Cowboy points in a row – including four three-pointers in a stretch of 1:34 – and the OSU lead went from six points to 17 before Knight and the Red Raiders knew what hit them.

Muonelo and Texas Tech's Alan Voskuil were whistled for a double foul. That seemed to get the Edmond, Okla., sophomore fired up.

"I think all guys play better when they play with enthusiasm and they play with emotion. He's certainly a guy that's a lot better when he's playing with energy, and he's fired up. Today, I thought he was," Sutton said.

In addition to opening Big 12 play with a victory, Muonelo said the Cowboys were motivated not to let the Red Raiders celebrate getting Knight's 900th career win on their home court.

"Before the game that's all we talked about in the locker room," he said. "Bobby Knight is a great coach but we were talking about how we didn't want him to come in here and get his 900th win, and see them celebrating on our crowd. We can't let that happen in Gallagher-Iba."

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