Obi Refuses To Let Cowboys Lose

Oh, thank heaven for Obi Muonelo. The Oklahoma State standout said earlier this week that his senior season wouldn't be complete unless he was playing in the NCAA Tournament next month, and then Muonelo put the Cowboys on his back Wednesday night to lead them to a 69-64 victory over Iowa State in Ames, Iowa.

Muonelo scored 31 points – including 25 of the Cowboys' 32 points in the second half – as Oklahoma State improved to 18-7 overall and 6-5 in Big 12 action in a must-win game for the Cowboys. Iowa State is now 13-13 and 2-9.

Muonelo's 31 points was just one shy of his career high of 32 against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Dec. 14, 2008.

"We thought he might have a mismatch in this game," Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford said of Muonelo. "We thought he'd be able to take his man of the dribble a little bit, which he did.

"But I also thought a key to this game was Marshall Moses and Matt Pilgrim held one of the best players in this league (in Iowa State's Craig Brackins, 16.9 points per game) to 3-for-17 from the field, and that's something that definitely can't go unnoticed," Ford added.

Muonelo, the Edmond, Okla., senior, scored 21 consecutive points for the Cowboys during a 13-minute stretch of the second half in one of the most impressive individual performances of his career. Muonelo's three-pointer with 16:54 on the clock in the second half gave the Cowboys a 42-37 lead.

But who knew that it be more than 13 minutes – when James Anderson drained a trey with 3:51 left in the game – before another Cowboy would score again. During his streak of 21 consecutive points, Muonelo scored almost every way imaginable with four three-pointers, two other field goals and five free throws (one of which completed a traditional three-point play).

The only Cowboys to score in the second half besides Muonelo were Anderson (5 points) and Keiton Page (2 points). Anderson, the Big 12's leading scorer, finished with 20 points, while Page contributed 12.

It appeared that the Cowboys were going to blow out the Cyclones in the first half, and wouldn't need Muonelo's second-half heroics.

Anderson and Page combined to score 25 points as the Cowboys opened up a 36-16 lead in the first 15 minutes of the game. But the Cyclones used a 14-3 run during the last five minutes of the half to pull within 37-30 at halftime.

The Cyclones actually took the lead 50-47 on Dominique Buckley's three-pointer with a little more than 12 minutes to play, but Muonelo refused to let the Cowboys lose Wednesday night in Ames.

"We got off to such a great start that sometimes that's fool's gold, especially when you're on the road," Ford said. "You knew Iowa State was going to make a run back at you.

"We were making a lot of threes (in the first half), and you just can't continue to do that for 40 minutes. I told our team that the threes are great but we're going to have to establish an inside game, and that's something we failed to do at times. You have to give Iowa State credit because they came out and made some shots on us.

"I think it showed a lot of character by our team. Most teams when you get a big lead like that on the road and the other team comes back, a lot of teams would give in. Their bubble would be burst and they would get down but our team hung in there and did the things we had to do to win," Ford added.

The Cowboys needed the win over the Cyclones because they now begin their toughest four-game stretch of the season, beginning with Saturday's home game against 22nd-ranked Baylor at Gallagher-Iba Arena.

Oklahoma State's NCAA Tournament hopes could hinge on its next four games, all against Top 25 opponents – No. 22 Baylor, at No. 15 Texas, No. 1 Kansas, and at No. 24 Texas A&M.

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