Upset Special

STILLWATER – James Anderson put to rest any doubts on Saturday who deserves to be voted Big 12 Player of the Year. The Oklahoma State junior almost didn't play because of back spasms but led the way with 27 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocked shots as the Cowboys upset the No. 1-ranked Kansas Jayhawks 85-77 at Gallagher-Iba Arena. It was OSU's first win over a No. 1-ranked team since Feb. 4, 1989.

Anderson, who signed with Oklahoma State three years ago after narrowing it down to OSU and Kansas, began having back spasms during the Cowboys' practice Friday, and was still hurting when he arrived at Gallagher-Iba Arena on Saturday morning.

"Honestly, we didn't know if we was going to play or not. As of last night, I didn't think there was a chance," Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford said of the Big 12's leading scorer (22.5 points per game before Saturday).

Kansas head coach Bill Self recruited the former McDonald's All-American from Junction City, Ark., and knew what he was capable of before Saturday. The OSU junior played 36 of the game's 40 minutes, was 9-of-19 shooting (including 4-of-6 from three-point range), and finished with more points (27), rebounds (8) and blocked shots (2) than everyone else who played in the game – both Cowboys and Jayhawks. He also had 3 assists and 2 steals.

"The thing you forget about him, as big as he is, is he's got great ball-handling skills," Self said. "He's really good going left, probably better with his left hand than his right, but he's a terrific ball handler, and he makes guarded shots. He made shots that we don't let our guys shoot because he's that talented.

"I don't know if he reminds me of anybody, but the only guy that comes to mind right now is (former KU All-American and current Boston Celtic) Paul Pierce," Self added.

Anderson even impressed his teammates with his gutty performance against the Jayhawks.

"He's unbelievable," said Cowboy senior Obi Muonelo. "I don't care what anybody says, for a teammate he's had the best year I've ever seen anybody have. I don't think he's had an off night… every game he's just been unbelievable. Nobody deserves (to be conference player of the year) more in the Big 12."

But it took more than Anderson to hand the Jayhawks just their second loss in 29 games this season. Matt Pilgrim (18 points on 8-of-8 shooting, 6 rebounds), Muonelo (17 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists), and Keiton Page (15 points on 5-of-6 shooting, including making all of four of his three-point attempts) had outstanding games.

"I made the comment to the coaching staff that we're going to need at least four guys to bring their A-game today, and I thought we had 7 guys bring their A-game today," Ford said. "You look down (at the stat sheet) and everybody played well for our basketball team, and you're going to have to have that type of effort and execution to beat a team like Kansas.

"It's a great win for our program, and a well-deserved win because we went out and executed and played well," Ford added.

Anderson said there was never any doubt in his mind if he would play against the Jayhawks.

"I tried to fight through it the best I could. I've been working on it all morning. My trainer did a good job of getting me ready for the game," Anderson said after the game. "I was going to play regardless. I could have had a broken leg, and I was going to drag it down the court."

But Ford says he wasn't so sure when he met Anderson at Gallagher-Iba Arena on Saturday morning.

"He's been hurt in practice before. We came back and did a little shoot around last night, and he was still in bad shape. This morning I was waiting on him (when he arrived). When he walked in the door (this morning), and I asked him how he was feeling, I thought he'd say, great and maybe still be hurting. I didn't think he'd tell me the truth and say, coach, it's a little better but it's really bothering me. When I move this way and that way, it catches," said Ford.

"And then we went through our walk through this morning and he really couldn't go through that. Between that and game time he really kept working on it, and I thought with the adrenalin and everything, he would have a chance. But up until game time I didn't know if he'd be able to play, and definitely not how much. But it obviously didn't bother him too much," Ford said with a smile.

Ford believes Anderson more than showed that he deserves to be Oklahoma State's first conference player of the year honoree since John Lucas and Tony Allen shared the honor following the 2003-04 season.

"I think he did a great job of solidifying it. For what he does for our basketball team, and what we ask him to do night in and night out … you know we started him on (6-foot-8 Marcus) Morris today, and he guarded their four-man the whole game," Ford said.

"He rebounds, he scores, he handles the ball. You saw what he did. We were trying to get him the ball every time down the court, especially the last five minutes of the game. He's doing that on the youngest team in the league that has won 20 games, 8 games in the league, on a team that most people didn't expect us to do that right now.

"To answer your question, I think James Anderson deserves it. I think today just put another notch in his belt," Ford added.

The victory by the Cowboys was the basketball program's first over a No. 1-ranked team since Feb. 4, 1989, when the then-Leonard Hamilton coached OSU basketball team (with Bill Self as an assistant coach) defeated top-ranked Oklahoma, 77-73, in Stillwater.

Oklahoma State had lost its last four games against No. 1-ranked teams, including the most recent losses being to the top-ranked Jayhawks during the 1996-97 season.

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