Eaton Shows NBA Scouts He Can Play Big

STILLWATER - Scouts from nine NBA teams made the trip to Stillwater on Thursday night to watch players like Tulsa 7-footer Jerome Jordan and Oklahoma State's Terrel Harris and James Anderson. But the big man on the Oklahoma State campus was one of the smallest men inside Gallagher-Iba Arena as point guard Byron Eaton led the Cowboys to a 91-73 victory over the Hurricane.

The 5-foot-11 senior was superb as he finished with a game-high 26 points, seven assists and five rebounds as the Cowboys scored the fourth-most points ever by Oklahoma State in the 105 games played between the two schools. OSU's 91 points were just two shy of the most the Cowboys had ever scored against the Hurricane (three times, the latest in a 93-88 win on Dec. 7, 1994).

Eaton showed the NBA scouts, and the 6,774 others inside Gallagher-Iba Arena, that he was capable of taking over a game despite being the smallest person on the court named after longtime OSU head coach Eddie Sutton, who was in attendance at Thursday night's game for the first time since his son Sean's stint as the Cowboy head coach came to an end following last season.

The Oklahoma State coaching staff used a pick-and-roll offensive scheme to draw TU's 7-foot Jordan out of the lane, and it worked to perfection thanks to Eaton. The Cowboys used an 18-1 run midway through the first half to take a 37-14 lead and never looked back en route to improving their record to 3-0.

"We put in some plays just for this game to do some things because we thought we might be able to get the mismatches off the pick and roll with Byron," Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford said. "Byron is so low to the ground, he's tough to guard. It was just one of those things that kind of snowballed a little bit, and we just kept going to it.

"I told our team in the locker room that the two MVPs of this game were Obi (Muonelo) and (Ibrahima) Thomas, Obi for the fact that he sacrificed his scoring to rebound, and Thomas for him having the commitment to run out there and ball-screen every time. He was getting tired of doing it. I was begging and screaming for him to turn out there but he was getting so tired of running out there. But he got some opportunities off of it as well," Ford continued.

Muonelo grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds and Thomas outplayed Jordan. The 6-11 sophomore from Senegal finished with 18 points (one shy of his career best) and seven rebounds in 28 minutes of play. TU's big man had eight points and three rebounds in 22 minutes.

"The pick and roll ... I think we will be seeing that all year, and they did a great job," Tulsa head coach Doug Wojcik said. "It is one thing doing it and it is another thing executing it. Thomas did a great job of receiving it and finishing at the basket. He really caused us problems."

Eaton said, "The main thing was we wanted our defense to make them take bad shots and create offense. We found something they couldn't stop."

"We found something that they couldn't stop. Coach (Ford) said we wanted to do a lot of pick and rolls, but once he saw the success we were having either throwing over the top or that I was having going to the hole, he just said we're going to do that for the rest of the game, and that's what we did. We just found something and stuck with it," continued Eaton, who moved past JamesOn Curry into seventh place on the school's career assist charts Thursday night.

James Anderson joined Eaton and Thomas in double figures with 18 points while also contributing 8 rebounds. The Cowboys only shot 14 three-pointers but they were having so much success with the pick and roll (scoring 46 of their 91 points from inside the paint) that there was no reason to rely on the trey against the Hurricane.

Ford believes that Eaton showed the NBA scouts watching Thursday night that he's capable of playing in the league next season.

"They saw that Byron can run a basketball team. They saw that he can control the basketball and when he has the ball in his hands good things happen," Ford said. "And then they saw how his body is an asset. How many times did Byron go in tonight and take on the contact (in the lane), and finish. Multiple times. And that's big in the NBA.

"I don't think there is any question that Byron has the potential to be an NBA player, but it's still a long season. We told him that in a five-game span (at the end of) last season he was an NBA player, but again it's a 30-game season. He has to do it on a consistent basis and keep proving himself every night," Ford continued.

"It's not about scoring 26 points every night for him; it's about running our basketball team. Some nights he will get 25 or 26 points, and some nights he may get 8 or 10 but then we need him to get 10 or 15 assists. He's got enough shooters around him, and enough good players around him, that he should be getting 10 to 12 to 15 assists when he's not scoring, but he showed he could do both tonight."

The Cowboys return to action Sunday afternoon against Grambling State at Gallagher-Iba Arena. Tipoff is scheduled for 3 p.m.

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