Cowboys Triumph In Must-Win Situation

Byron Eaton and Marshall Moses knew what they needed to do Saturday at Gallagher-Iba Arena. The Oklahoma State basketball team faced a must-win game against Baylor if the Cowboys wanted to keep alive hopes of returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005. Eaton scored a team-best 23 points and Moses contributed 14 points and 18 rebounds as the Cowboys defeated the Bears 84-74.

The Cowboys, now 17-9 overall and 6-6 in Big 12 play, put themselves in great shape to return to the NCAA tourney for the first time in four years with four games remaining in the season.

OSU's remaining schedule sets up this way:
** Wednesday night at Colorado (9-17, 1-11)

** Feb. 28 vs. Texas (17-8, 6-5) in Stillwater

** March 3 vs. Kansas State (18-8, 6-5) in Stillwater

** March 7 at Oklahoma (25-1, 11-0)

If past history is any indication when it comes to the NCAA Tournament selection committee, if the Cowboys (whose had the nation's 33rd-best RPI entering Saturday's game) win three of their final regular-season games they would be in great shape to receive an at-large berth by having a 20-10 record, and sitting at 9-7 in Big 12 games.

By winning two of four games, OSU will finish 8-8 in Big 12 games and would probably need to win at least one more contest in the Big 12 Tournament to be in a position to receive an at-large invitation to the NCAA Tournament, providing of course that they do not with the conference's postseason tournament.

"We needed this one, and Baylor needed this one. I think both teams knew this was a big game, and I'm glad our guys played the way they did," said OSU head coach Travis Ford said.

"I told our guys in the locker room that this game was one of the first 40-minute games we've played in a while, probably since the Texas A&M game (on Jan. 10). They'd get the lead on us or make a big three and we'd come back and respond. Hopefully that's showing that our team is growing up a little bit. I'm proud of our 40-minute effort."

Thanks to Eaton, the Cowboys' senior point guard, and Moses, the 6-foot-6 sophomore post player who had scored eight points in the last three games, their hopes of playing in their first NCAA Tournament are still alive.

Eaton scored eight of his Cowboy-best 23 points in the game's final seven minutes as Oklahoma State outscored Baylor 21-10.

The Bears led 64-63 with 7:19 left to play on Tweety Carter's four-point play after hitting a three-pointer and the free throw when he was fouled. But back-to-back baskets by Moses and Eaton, and Obi Monuelo's two free throws ut the Cowboys back on top 69-64.

Eaton would add a three-pointer a few moments later, hit a driving layup with 2:09 on the clock, and then the Cowboys made seven of eight free throws in the final 1:19 to close out the win.

"There's no question that he's the leader of our team," Ford said of Eaton. "It gets to a point in the game where we just say, ‘All right Byron, it's your turn to go.' I actually told him that for the first time today. ‘You're going to have to take us to victory. It's your time. I'm going to call every play for you.'

"It's such an advantage when you have a guy who can get in the paint like he can. What I've liked the past four, five or six games, and we didn't see it for the first 15 or 20 games, is he's making great decisions with the basketball. He's looking to pass first, and scoring when he needs or when our teams needs him to score.

"There's no question he's the leader of our basketball team, and we're very fortunate to have him especially when you have a lead late in the game," Ford added.

In Waco, Texas, on Jan. 17, Moses had four points, five rebounds and two turnovers in 25 minutes of play as the Cowboys lost 98-92 in overtime. But the Bears saw a different Marshall Moses on Saturday, as he had 14 points (on 6-of-8 shooting), 18 rebounds (which ties for the eighth-most in a game in OSU history), and two blocked shots in 28 minutes.

"The one big shot that he blocked late in the game ... he came all the way from half-court to block it, and I told him that's a winning play. Those are the type of plays you need to make to win basketball games. It was an incredible effort by him," Ford said.

The Cowboys also got solid performances from James Anderson (20 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block) and Terrel Harris (11 points).

Ford said his team won't be overlooking Colorado, which has won only once in 12 Big 12 games this season. But Oklahoma State has won only once in its last six trips to Boulder, Colo.

"They're hungry for a win and it's on the road. Anything can happen on the road," said the Cowboys head coach. "They've been close in a lot of games. They play a different style of basketball. If our guys as smart as I think they are and hungry as they are, our team is not good enough to overlook anybody. We just don't have that much depth, that much talent, that much firepower to overlook anyone.

"Every game (the rest of the way) we're going to have to strap it on and play as hard as we can, and play defense as hard as we can, and hope good things happen for us. We can't overlook anyone. We're just not there yet."

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