Eaton, Moses Lead Cowboys Over Vols

Point guard Byron Eaton has used his sensational abilities to tease and provide a mixture of marvel and disappointment during his career at Oklahoma State. Eaton has been outstanding during a strong late season run for the Cowboys. The senior point guard provided two clutch plays at the end of the game Friday to give OSU a 77-75 win over Tennessee in a first-round NCAA Tournament game.

Eaton, who fought off foul trouble throughout the game including picking up his fourth foul with 4:05 left in the game, made good an offensive rebound by teammate James Anderson and drove the ball to the elbow on the right side and nailed a jumper to put OSU up 74-72.

Tyler Smith, Tennessee's leading scorer, was a whirling dervish on the offensive end for a short jumper that also drew a foul by Marshall Moses. Smith, who was a perfect 10-for-10 at the line, hit his final free throw and Tennessee led 75-74 with 24 seconds left.
,br> On the other end Eaton drove to the bucket when the Vols left the right side completely unguarded and he hit the hard driving lay up and drew the foul. The strong free throw shooter, Eaton connected for a 77-75 lead and then Tennssee's Tyler Smith, who had 21 points to lead all scorers, missed a good look at a three-pointer that skipped up over the backboard preventing any chance at an offensive board by the taller Vols for a tip and a tie.

The buzzer sounded and the Cowboys (23-11) move on to a second-round game against Pittsburgh, the East Regional's No. 1 seed.

"I was happy that I was able to make it here," said Eaton when asked afterwards if he ever thought he was going to get his NCAA moment after all he had been through in his career at Oklahoma State.

"I was glad that I was able to have fun with the situation when it presented itself. It started when Tyler (Smith) made his shot and I told our guys not to worry that we were going to win this game. We are going to come down and get us a good shot and win the game.

"After they made it I said we're going to run flat and you just get in the corners, but then Coach (Ford) called time out and he drew up a great play to open the court. It was a fake handoff to Terrel (Harris) and then Marshal came and set a screen, and all night I was able to hit Moses on the roll, and I was going to be able to get the bucket or he was.

"I was just able to go to the middle and then I got my shoulder by him and was looking for the contact because I knew it was coming. Then I just concentrated on making the basket for my team."

Oklahoma State outshot Tennessee from the field 57 percent to 43 percent. The expected edge in free-throw shooting and three-point shooting never materialized as both teams shot 33 percent from beyond the arch and OSU was just slightly better, 77 percent to 76 percent, from the line. However, in a surprise, the Cowboys outrebounded the taller Vols 30-25.

It was the first NCAA Tournament coaching win for Ford, who had previously taken Eastern Kentucky to the dance. Ford watched a tight second half that saw many lead changes and momentum swings and staring roles for both of his senior players Eaton and Harris, and smallish OSU post Marshall Moses.

Moses powered the Cowboys early in the half with an inside power move that put OSU up 42-34 for the Cowboys biggest lead in the game. After a Tennessee run, it was Moses that answered with a baseline fadeaway jumper that tied the score at 44-44. He came right back with a strong back in little jump hook to make it 46-44.

Later in the half he caught a huge adjustment pass from Harris, who turned a shot attempt quickly into a cross court pass to Moses for an easy bank shot and a 58-54 lead. Moments later Moses took a bounce pass from Eaton on the pick and screen play and drove to the basket for a slam. The only problem was he hung on the rim a tad too long and drew the technical. It was 60-54 until Tennessee hit the two free throws and and then Cameron Tatum hit a three-pointer to pull Tennessee to 60-59.

"That technical, I was more afraid of coach than anything," said Moses. "I was scared to look over there, but after Byron made the great play and the screen and the pass and I dunked it with this NCAA atmosphere and close game, it all kind of just got to me and I kind of showboated a little and it won't happen again, Coach," Moses said while looking down the dias at Travis Ford.

"I wasn't that upset by that because he was playing hard," said Ford. "I knew why he got it. He shouldn't have got it, but it was very emotional."

"I didn't care how many points or rebounds I had," continued Moses, who had 16 points and 11 rebounds. "I just knew we had to win. I was looking into the eyes of my teammates and the seniors and I knew they wanted to win so bad and I just went out and played my hardest."

The game really see-sawed from that point with a pair of defensive plays being very important to the Cowboys as Harris stole the ball from the Vols and went driectly in with the lay in. Just seconds later Obi Muonelo, who had eight points, stole the ball and waited after a Keiton Page missed three was rebounded by Eaton and Muonelo hit the open three-pointer for a 70-67 lead with five minutes left. The ebb and flow continued until Smith and Eaton traded their late heroics and then Smith had the final miss.

"Marshall Moses' elevated play was a real factor, in and around the basket, and making one-on-one plays scoring in the post and then, of course, Byron Eaton off the bounce was very, very effective," said Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl.

"Both from a strategy standpoint by the coaches and an execution standpoint by the players we did a lousy job on ball screen defense. We played against a really good team, one of the better teams we've played in the last few weeks and we were right there, we were close," Pearl added.

For Ford the whole experience was gratifying but especially having the chance to help two seniors (Eaton and Harris) that had never been get an NCAA experience and a winning one at that.

"I've said it from the time that we made it that I'm so excited for these two seniorS that have been at Oklahoma State for four years and have been through a lot, three coaches, not making postseason, well not NCAAs but NITs," said Ford.

"These two men who have been here the longest and from the time I stepped on campus and asked them to do some things and they had to be asking why in the world are we doing this. It is more like boot camp than it is basketball.

"They never questioned it and they have been extremely coachable. They have been very receptive to what we ask them to do and they have been a joy to be around every day. Those are the type of people you want to have success come to.

"I told them before we went tonight for the last time, 'You will win this game because you deserve it. You have worked extremely hard and you have persevered. You two seniors, Byron and Terrel, you have been through a lot at Oklahoma State and it has all come down to this. You have made it this far and are you going to be content to just make it here or are you going to go out and try to find a way to play on Sunday.'

"I kind of put the ball in their court a little bit. Terrel comes up with that steal and lay in late and, of course, Byron makes the last play. These two guys both played a big part as to why we moved on to play on Sunday," added Ford on his seniors.

Harris closed out the first half with four consecutive free throws as Oklahoma State ended the half on a 13-2 run. The Cowboys led 38-34 over a Tennessee team that missed a number of easy looks at the basket.

While Pearl dealt with that problem, poor shooting from close range, the Cowboys' Travis Ford, coaching just his second NCAA Tournament game, had to deal with two problems. With five minutes gone the Cowboys' nightmare was their two seniors, Eaton and ace defender Harris with two fouls each.

At the time of Harris' second foul the Cowboys led 12-9, so balancing Eaton and Harris with time on the floor and time on the bench to protect their foul numbers the Cowboys outscored Tennessee 26-25. Ford nearly nursed the pair into the halftime dressing room with just the two fouls until Eaton committed a careless offensive foul with 2:18 left in the half.

Ford may have influenced the way the officials called the game when he drew a technical foul with 7:51 left in the first half. The report was Ford, despite a warning in a meeting with game officials on Thursday, went too far out on the floor, but Ford was moving his lips at the same time.

Tennessee hit the two technical free throws and then added a Cameron Tatum three-pointer on the next possession to key a 7-0 run that gave the Vols a 32-25 lead. That is when Harris hit a three-pointer from the wing. The Cowvoys got a couple of favorable calls on a travel with a Harris bump that went against Tennessee and a charge call on the Vols.

"I told my assistant that I was going to get mine," said Ford of his first half technical. "I wanted one. It goes back to the first eight minutes of the game these guys were playing as if they were having fun out here. They were playing hard but I told my guys we're not focused right now and we're not competing and I have to do something.

"After I got it, it gave me a chance to get into my guys and I got it a little quicker than I thought I would. I told the players that, 'You have to get as fired up as I am right now and you have to compete. Let's forget about this being the NCAA Tournament and you have to start playing.'"

James Anderson, who opened the game with two threes that gave OSU a 6-0 lead, scored on a jump shot just inside the three-point line and then Eaton, before committing that ugly third foul, took a pass from Keiton Page and hit a tear drop floater on a drive down the middle of the paint to tie the game at 32-32.

Add those four straight free throws by Harris and it was 38-34 OSU at the half.

The Cowboys now move on to play Pittsburgh.

"There is no question that Pittsburgh is one of the great teams in the country and they are a very talented and experienced team," said Ford.

"We played against Blake Griffin three times and they seem to have three Blake Griffins. We have a very big challenge. They are big and physical. We'll let our kids get off their feet and not think about Pittsburgh until tomorrow morning."

The OSU-Pittsburgh second-round game at the UD Arena in Dayton, Ohio, is scheduled to tip off at 1:50 p.m. Sunday.

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