March 14, 2004
By JAIME ARON
AP Sports Writer
DALLAS - The Oklahoma State Cowboys went into the Big 12 tournament knowing they were long shots to get a top seed in the NCAA tournament.
They sure made a convincing case.
Showing off their tenacious defense and athleticism for three days, seventh-ranked Oklahoma State saved its best performance for the finals, beating No. 11 Texas 65-49 Sunday to add the tournament championship to their regular-season title.
Alas, it wasn't enough. Even with four of the teams ranked ahead of them losing in recent days, the Cowboys (27-3) wound up with a second seed. They play Eastern Washington on Friday in Kansas City.
While disappointed, they still matched the 1992 squad for best seed in school history, quite a feat for a team widely picked to finish fifth in the league as it tried blending three transfers and two holdovers.
"They play so hard, a high level of intensity that shows up in loose balls, rebounds, hustle plays," coach Eddie Sutton said. "I'm not sure I've ever been prouder of a basketball team than this one. They'll always be very special."
The Cowboys strutted their stuff from the start of this game, holding Texas (23-7) to five turnovers and a blocked shot during a six-possession span during an 18-2 run.
The Longhorns chipped away to get within three with 14:48 to go, but didn't make another field goal until the final minute.
Tournament MVP Tony Allen set the tone with his shutdown performance against Brandon Mouton, Texas' leading scorer. Mouton had four turnovers and just one basket in the first half. He finished with just six points on 3-of-11 shooting. Allen, meanwhile, scored a game-high 21.
"I wanted to step up to the challenge," said Allen, who felt he needed to redeem himself for allowing Texas Tech's Andre Emmett to score 26 points on 10-of-15 shooting in the semifinal.
The Longhorns are going into the NCAA tournament stuck in their worst rut of the season. Texas was seeded third and will open against Princeton on Thursday in Denver.
A Final Four team when led by T.J. Ford last March, the Longhorns have lost three of their last five - albeit twice to Oklahoma State - and were down by 12 and 11 in the victories. They also have been held under 50 points twice in that span, nearly 30 points below their average.
"I'm just disappointed, really, with the way we started this whole tournament, in terms of early in games getting down and getting ourselves in holes and have to fight back," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "Even with all of that, we put ourselves back in position to have a chance to win the game. But we didn't do what we had to do to get over the top."
Texas was within 42-39 with 14:48 left on a three-point play by Jason Klotz. The Longhorns had hit 3-pointers on their two previous possessions, an indication the Cowboys were wearing down.
Then Texas' Brian Boddicker sent Oklahoma State's Terrence Crawford flying into his bench while fighting for a rebound. Sutton was furious, as was the heavily pro-Cowboys crowd. When Allen was called for a foul away from the skirmish, emotions went soaring again.
Oklahoma State responded by keeping the Longhorns without a field goal until a putback by James Thomas with 57 seconds left got them within 63-47.
John Lucas III scored 15 points, including a 3-pointer between Texas' two longballs that tightened the game early in the second half. Joey Graham scored 14, 12 in the first half. He picked up his fourth foul with 11 minutes left.
Despite playing a third game in three days with barely any relief from the bench, the Cowboys never seemed to tire. The only possible reflection was making just 22 field goals, matching their season-low.
They still had enough energy for a big celebration when time expired, sealing their first postseason tournament crown since winning the Big 8 in 1995.
Allen circled the court, jumping and punching the air. Lucas dived near the free throw line and was piled onto by practically everyone else.
Klotz was the only consistent performer for the Longhorns, scoring 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting. Thomas was the next-leading scorer with just nine points, five from the line.
In beating Texas for a fourth straight time, Oklahoma State became the league's first winner of the regular season and conference tournament since Iowa State in 2000. The Longhorns fell to 0-2 in Big 12 title games.
2004 PHILLIPS 66 BIG 12 MEN'S BASKETBALL ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
Wayne Simien, Forward, Kansas
Brandon Mouton, Guard, Texas
John Lucas, Guard, Oklahoma State
Joey Graham, Forward, Oklahoma State
Tony Allen, Guard, Oklahoma State*
* denotes Most Valuable Player