Anderson Comes Alive In Second Half

STILLWATER – It's not often that Travis Ford gets upset with James Anderson but the Oklahoma State head coach didn't like what he saw from the Cowboy junior in the first 20 minutes of Wednesday night's Big 12 Conference game with Texas A&M. But Anderson more than made up for a lackadaisical first half with an explosive second half in leading OSU to a 76-69 victory over Texas A&M.

The 6-foot-6 Anderson had scored just two points on 1-of-3 shooting and committed two fouls as the Cowboys blew an 11-point lead to enter the locker room at halftime tied 26-26.

But Anderson showed that Ford may just know what he's talking about ("He's one of the best players in America," the OSU coach said.) in leading the Cowboys to the victory on the ninth anniversary of the Jan. 27, 2001 plane crash that claimed the lives of 10 members of the Oklahoma State basketball family.

In the second half, Anderson scored 17 of his 19 points on 3-of-6 shooting (he made both of his three-point attempts), while contributing six assists, four rebounds and one steal. He also made 9 of 11 free throws in the second half after not going to the foul line in the first 20 minutes.

OSU outscored Texas A&M 50-43 in the second half, and Anderson accounted for 35 of those points by scoring 17 and dishing out six assists which led to another 18 points. The Cowboys scored 12 field goals in the second half (and Anderson had three of them), were 18 of 22 from the foul line (Anderson made 9 of his 11), and they had eight assists on the 12 field goals (with Anderson getting credit for six of them).

"I just thought that the best player took over the game," said Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon. "He was shooting it, driving it, getting to the foul line. He was the one guy we talked about every timeout, and he took over the game.

"That James Anderson is really good. We've played against a lot of really good players, and he probably didn't play well for him," added Turgeon.

Anderson played the entire 20 minutes in the second half but scared Ford when he committed his third foul while driving to the basket just 53 seconds after halftime. But a few minutes later he gave the Cowboys a 32-30 lead with his first three-pointer of the game.

That got the Big 12's leading scorer started. He was fouled by A&M's Dash Harris while attempting a three-pointer, and made two of the free throws. Anderson then drove under the basket and made a crowd-pleasing backward layup. He drew fouls while going to the basket and made all four free throws on two possessions.

Then Anderson began looking for his teammates when A&M began collapsing on him. He assisted on a three-pointer by Keiton Page, and then found Obi Muonelo open for a trey. A few minutes later he dished to freshman point guard Fred Gulley, who converted the layup into a three-point play when he was fouled.

But that wasn't all. He assisted on another Muonelo three and made two huge plays in the game's final three minutes after the Aggies had pulled within 64-58. Anderson drew the Aggies to him before finding Page for the open trey, which he nailed with 2:32 left on the clock.

OSU led 69-60 and was using up as much of the 35-second shot clock when Anderson drove into the lane before passing to Muonelo in the corner. The OSU senior's high arching three drew nothing but net as the shot clock was about to expire to give the Cowboys a 12-point lead with 1:18 remaining, and drain the last hope from the Aggies.

Muonelo was outstanding in scoring a team-high 24 points on 6-of-9 shooting from behind the three-point arc but it was Anderson who made the big plays in the second half.

"We all knew James was coming. He's such an aggressive scorer," Muonelo said of his teammate. "I looked at him at halftime and asked if something was wrong with him because as long as I've been here I don't ever remember him having less than eight points at half. He said he was all right. Once he hit his first shot of the second half I knew he would be all right and have a good night."

Ford was pleased with Anderson's second-half performance.

"I challenged him. I was not happy with the way he played the first half," the OSU head coach said. "He's one of the best players in America, and he's got to understand that when the game starts people's game plan is to try to stop him. They're going to be physical with him (and) bump him, and he's got to have a game plan. He's got to counter that, and I didn't think he countered it in the first half.

"But boy, did he in the second half. What I loved about James' game is he scored 19 points but what great passing, and that's what great players do. When teams double- and triple-team you, when you get in the paint, being able to make that pass to guys and guys making the shot. To me that's what makes him a great player and he's been doing that the past two games."

The Cowboys improve to 16-4 overall and 4-2 in Big 12 play with the victory. The Aggies drop to 14-6 and 3-3, although the loss to OSU was their first to a team that was not ranked in the Top 25.

OSU will be back in action Saturday when it travels to Columbia, Mo., to face the Missouri Tigers (15-5 overall and 3-2 in the Big 12). The Tigers have won 31 consecutive games at Mizzou Arena, the third longest home winning streak in the nation. But their last loss at Mizzou Arena came at the hands of the Cowboys, 75-73, on Feb. 26, 2008.

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