March 13, 2005
By STEVE BRISENDINE
AP Sports Writer
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The all-tournament ballots were already in when John Lucas started his late run. Otherwise, the most valuable player on the floor might also have been the Big 12 tournament MVP.
Lucas scored six of his 19 points in the final 1:33, including a crucial free throw with 4.4 seconds left, and No. 10 Oklahoma State earned its second straight Big 12 tournament championship with a 72-68 victory over Texas Tech on Sunday.
The Cowboys, seeded second in the Chicago Regional of the NCAA tournament, will play 15th-seeded Southeast Louisiana on Friday in Oklahoma City.
"Coach (Eddie Sutton) told us, 'Don't get frustrated. Just keep playing, and your shots will fall,"' Lucas said. "And they did when it counted."
Joey Graham, voted the MVP, added 16 points and 11 rebounds for the third-seeded Cowboys (24-6), who overcame 20 turnovers - seven by Graham - to win the last Big 12 tournament game in Kemper Arena.
"I've never had seven turnovers in my life," Graham said with a wry chuckle and a sidelong look at Sutton, who had just entered the interview room. "It was a learning experience for me, and I definitely won't make that mistake again."
"Good," Sutton responded as he sat down.
Ronald Ross, who had 22 points and 10 rebounds for Texas Tech, airballed a 3-point attempt with time winding down and the fourth-seeded Red Raiders (20-10) trailing 71-68. Lucas caught the ball under the basket, was fouled, and hit the second of his two free throw attempts to put the game out of reach.
Jarrius Jackson also had 22 points for Texas Tech, which won the last Southwest Conference tournament in 1996 but was making its first appearance in a Big 12 final.
The Red Raiders also had problems with turnovers Sunday. After committing just eight in Saturday's 69-63 semifinal victory over No. 17 Oklahoma, they had 19 - 14 in the first half - against the Cowboys.
"I think we were moving a little too quick," Jackson said. "They turned our mistakes into transition offense. We were impatient."
Oklahoma State took its biggest lead, 49-37, on Lucas' 3-pointer with 17 minutes left. But Martin Zeno scored 11 points and Ross had nine in Texas Tech's 22-4 run that put the Red Raiders up 59-53 on Devonne Giles' basket with 5:20 to go.
The Cowboys came back and went up 64-63 on Graham's three-point play with 2:07 to go. Daniel Bobik then drew a charging call on Giles, and Lucas hit a 3-pointer that gave the Cowboys a 67-63 lead with 1:33 left.
"I'm really proud of our ballclub," Sutton said. "When they got up six and had all the momentum going for them, it would have been easy to say, 'Boy, this just isn't our day.' But they played with a lot of poise and a lot of courage and fought back."
Texas Tech coach Bob Knight felt the same way about his team's earlier surge.
"As a coach, you have got to be really be pleased for kids and with kids that get down as we did and come back and get the game in a position where now if we make the right plays we can win the game," he said.
Jackson hit a 3-pointer with 1:16 to go, getting the Red Raiders within 69-68, and Lucas answered with a layup that put Oklahoma State up 69-66 with just under 40 seconds remaining.
"We made a good run at them, and stuff really started to slow down," Ross said. "They would hit a big 3, then we would hit a big 3. But we didn't execute in the end."
JamesOn Curry had 11 points and five assists for Oklahoma State, which led 39-32 at halftime.
Zeno finished with 14 points for Texas Tech.
Kemper Arena, site of the 1988 Final Four, hosted every Big Eight tournament and the first six Big 12 tournaments before the event was awarded to Dallas in 2003 and 2004.
Kansas City voters last year approved a $250 million downtown arena project, the Sprint Center, which is expected to open in 2007. Backers hope it will lead to the permanent return of the Big 12 tournament, which returns to Dallas next year and will be played in Oklahoma City in 2007.
"I tried to lobby the best I could to get that new arena," Sutton said. "But this arena's been good for the Cowboys, and I think it's been good for college basketball."