March 6, 2005
Texas was a clear underdog going into Saturday night's Big 12 showdown at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Okla. Oklahoma State entered the contest with the nation's longest home winning streak at 29. The Longhorns were 5-6 since P.J. Tucker was declared academically ineligible. LaMarcus Aldridge was also lost for the season with a hip injury.
Coach Rick Barnes' Longhorns were shorthanded, but they played with a sense of urgency and a purpose. When Oklahoma State built a five-point lead in the second half, Texas responded to the challenge. As the Cowboys came on down the stretch, the Longhorns found an answer.
Texas forward Brad Buckman had a career night, hitting 8-of-11 shots and scoring 27 points (he also had 27 vs. Colorado this season). The improbable happened, as the Longhorns scored a 74-73 shocker on Senior Night in Stillwater. Oklahoma State seniors Joey Graham and Ivan McFarlin fouled out.
||If Texas is left out of the NCAA Tournament now, there should be an investigation of a crime.
So the Cowboys and their fans were disappointed as they left Gallagher-Iba Arena, one of my top-five toughest places to play.
For anyone who questioned whether the Longhorns deserved a berth in the Big Dance, forget about it. Yes, it's a fact that no Big 12 team finishing 8-8 in conference play ever made the NCAA Tournament. Texas made sure that was not a factor by finishing the regular season 9-7 (20-9 overall), reaching the 20-win plateau for the sixth straight year.
After scoring 27 points in the first meeting, Texas freshman guard Daniel Gibson was held to just nine points (2-of-8 from the field). Gibson still played well enough to handle and distribute the rock. The inside play of Buckman and Jason Klotz was a big factor. The Longhorns did a great job on the boards, outrebounding the Cowboys 37-29. Remember, Texas was a minus-10 on the glass against Oklahoma on Monday.
Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton was clearly disappointed after the defeat. Let me tell you, the Cowboys (21-6, 11-5 Big 12) have plenty of experience and senior leadership, and they will bounce back in the Big 12 tournament and the Big Dance. Oklahoma State will be one of the dangerous clubs capable of making a run to the Final Four in St. Louis. Seniors John Lucas, Joey Graham and Co. will make some noise in the postseason.
For one night, though, it was the Longhorns doing the celebrating, enjoying a much-needed victory to stop the critics and send a message to the NCAA Tournament selection committee. If Texas is left out of the tournament now, there should be an investigation of a crime. Barnes' team played with passion, defeating on an opponent on the road with an incredible crowd behind it, a sea of orange.
The Longhorns came through and should be dancing when Selection Sunday rolls around.
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question to Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.