UT Punches Dance Card With 74-73 Thriller

Here's how Texas ended speculation Saturday about its NCAA Tournament chances: it went to Stillwater and stunned No. 8 Oklahoma State, 74-73, to snap the nation's longest home winning streak -- on Senior Night, no less!

Believe it! The never-say-die Longhorns burst their own bubble in the best sense of the word. The win, one of the most pivotal of coach Rick Barnes' tenure, is an Instant Classic that saw nine ties and seven lead changes before it was settled. More important, it raised Texas' record to 20-9 on the season and (unofficially) secured a school-record seventh straight NCAA appearance. Afterwards, Barnes said that if there were 34 better at-large Tournament teams, then he would like to see them. For now, a national cable-TV audience saw F Brad Buckman resemble the warrior he had become during the late season before hitting a two-game slump. The junior led all scorers by tying his career-best 27 points (8-of-11 FG) while nailing a career-high three shots from outside the arc and grabbing nine rebounds.

But Buckman nearly saw his effort go for naught when he was whistled for fouling Terrence Crawford as he launched a desperation trey from midcourt with less than one second remaining and Texas up by three. Barnes instructed players to foul on the inbounds pass and insisted that Buckman committed the personal before the shot was launched. Game officials did not agree, sending Crawford to the charity stripe and a chance to send the nailbiter into overtime. Instead, Crawford missed the second foul shot. Now, he had no choice but to miss his third attempt and hope that either a teammate produced a tip-in or that Texas would foul while fighting for the loose board.

Never has a Rick Barnes' Texas team wanted this badly for an opponent to hit a free throw. Fortunately for the Horns, Crawford couldn't miss if he tried. Once his shot fell through the cylinder, all Texas had to do was safely in-bounds the pass to seal the deal in what was a who'd-a-thunk-it gut check that personified heart, determination and sheer endurance for the Burnt Orange. In short, Texas cowboyed-up when the season was on the line.

Cowboy fans started partying Friday in anticipation of what they predicted would be a blowout over the depleted Longhorns, according to ESPN color commentator Dick Vitale. In fact, Vitale announced during the broadcast that the OSU faithful encouraged him to bring something to read once the rout got boring. Instead, we'll be reading how Texas swept the Cowboys this season and ended D-I's longest home winning streak at 29. Friends, Oklahoma State is a senior-laden, legitimate No. 2 seed and Texas fended off every blow on the Cowboys' own court on the last night of the regular season to leave a lasting impression when the NCAA Selection Committee convenes next weekend.

It also means that Texas' trip next week to the Big 12 Tournament isn't quite so critical. The Horns, 9-7 in Big 12 play, finished in a fifth place tie with Iowa State but the Cyclones grab the fifth-seed because of their OT win in Austin on February 5. The Horns will face Colorado, which beat the Horns in Boulder last month, in the First Round, 8:20 p.m. Thursday, at Kemper Arena.

Texas threw a variety of defensive looks at the Cowboys, mixing man-to-man, a 2-3 zone and a 1-2-2 zone. The result was that it kept (arguably) the nation's best backcourt from consistently penetrating the lane and forcing a perimeter game for OSU's three-guard lineup. The Cowboys shot 29 percent from outside the arc, connecting on just seven of 24 attempts while Texas shot 37 percent (7-of-19) from three-point range.

With Buckman on the offensive, Texas shot 53 percent from the field (24-of-45) while connecting on 19-of-27 (70 percent) of its foul shots. OSU was 26-of-60 (.43 percent) from the floor while hitting 14-of-20 (70 percent) from the charity stripe. Texas outrebounded OSU, 37-29. The Horns committed 16 turnovers, leading to 23 Cowboy points.

Senior F Joey Graham was one of five Cowboys to score in double figures and led his team with 17 points (5-of-12 FG).

This one began inauspiciously as F Ivan McFarlin scored his team's first six points of the contest while the Horns committed four turnovers in the first four minutes of play. But Kenny Taylor's trey as time expired gave Texas a 33-32 lead at the half. The senior was the only other Longhorn to score in double figures, contributing 11 points (4-of-8 FG), six rebounds and two steals.

The Cowboys scored the first five points following intermission, but Texas quickly answered to tie the score, prompting OSU coach Eddie Sutton to call an immediate time out. Buckman followed his shot from outside the arc with a pair of free throws to put Texas up, 47-43. But the Cowboys responded with a 13-4 run to stake a 56-51 advantage.

This is the point where OSU could have seized the momentum for good. F Dion Dowell appeared to have twisted his knee while trying to slow Ivan McFarlin's fastbreak lay-up. The freshman lay on the baseline, clutching his knee with his left hand draped over his face. Two trainers helped Dowell to the sideline, who did not return the rest of the game.

But Jason Klotz launched a 9-0 run and the Horns never looked back. Both Sydmill Harris and Buckman connected on a pair of foul shots before Harris drained a trey to give the Longhorns a 60-56 lead. The Pokes pulled within 66-64 on John Lucas's three-ball with 2:30 remaining. But it was a night when Texas answered every Cowboy comeback bid. Buckman's hook shot in the lane was critical, making it a two possession game as the seconds ticked from the clock. The Horns could have sealed the deal at the foul line but Klotz and Gibson missed the back end of one-and-one attempts. The Horns led 70-64, their largest cushion of the contest, but Lucas struck again with a floater in the lane to keep the Cowboys in it at 71-68.

Taylor missed the back end of a one-and-one with 18 seconds remaining. Buckman was fouled after hustling for the board but bricked both shots from the charity stripe. Crawford provided a badly needed trey for the Cowboys who were now within one of the upset-minded Longhorns. But Gibson calmly sank two FTs with 3.9 seconds remaining before Crawford hit two-of-three from the foul line to complete the scoring.


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