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Top-seeded Cowboys overcome sloppiness

3/12/2004

DALLAS (AP) -- With the game tied late in the second half and its
leading scorer in foul trouble, Oklahoma State needed someone to
make a big play.

Good thing the Cowboys had two conference players of the year
around.

Tony Allen, the coaches' pick for the Big 12's top player, made
a key steal and John Lucas III, the media's choice for the same
honor, followed with a short jumper and a wide-open three pointer,
sending the No. 7 Cowboys past Iowa State 83-75 on Friday in the
second round of the Big 12 tournament.

"That's the thing that's impressed me with this team all year
long -- they keep their poise, don't panic and they all have big ol'
hearts," Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton said. "They always
feel like someone is going to step up."

Joey Graham, who made 11-of-13 shots for 25 points, carried the
top-seeded Cowboys (25-3) until picking up his fourth foul with
8:00 left. The Cyclones (17-12) tied it at 59 soon after.

Then came Allen's steal off an inbounds pass. He dribbled down
and found Lucas on the baseline for the go-ahead bucket. After
Jackson Vroman missed two chances for Iowa State to tie it, he dove
to steal the ball from Lucas and wound up giving the point guard a
clear look at the basket.

Oklahoma State followed with two free throws from Graham, two
nifty layups in traffic by Ivan McFarlin and a pullup jumper by
Lucas, capping a 13-4 run that put the Cowboys ahead for good.

Although Iowa State never got closer than five again, it wasn't
easy for Oklahoma State because Allen and McFarlin were also
playing with four fouls.

Graham, who also had nine rebounds, tied a tournament record for
field-goal percentage at .846.

Lucas scored 23 points and Allen added 14 points, seven assists,
five rebounds and three steals. McFarlin scored 12 to help the
advanced to a semifinal Saturday against Texas Tech, a 79-69 winner
over Colorado.

"It's not like we have only one guy who can go out and do it,
we have three or four," Lucas said. "If defenses focus on one
person, we have other options."

Oklahoma State ended a three-game losing streak at the
conference tournament, giving Sutton a nice 68th birthday present.
Fans celebrated by serenading him with "Happy Birthday" after the
final buzzer.

"My birthday always falls during tournament time, so you never
really get to celebrate," Sutton said. "But at my age, you don't
want to celebrate."

The Cyclones were hoping to avenge their only home loss, a
21-point rout in February. They failed to score a basket the final
3:11 of the first half and were down 12 early in the second before
tight defense and sloppy play by Oklahoma State turned it into a
game again.

A thunderous dunk by Marcus Jefferson off a perfect floating
alley-oop pass from Will Blalock tied it with 7:44 left. Jake
Sullivan kept Iowa State within two, at 64-62, by hitting a
3-pointer -- the only one he made in six tries -- but the Cyclones
ran out of answers.

"They played as hard as they could and tried as hard as they
could," coach Wayne Morgan said. "That's all you can ask for."

Vroman led ISU with 24 points before fouling out with 1:09 left.
He also had 10 rebounds. Sullivan scored 19, and Jared Homan had 13
points and 13 rebounds.

"It was a pretty evenly played game then Lucas hit two big
shots," Sullivan said. "Then they got a couple of breaks and
ended up winning the game."

The Cyclones will return to Ames hoping their first season under
Morgan isn't over yet. Their best chance of making a tournament is
the NIT.

For Oklahoma State, the victory preserved its bid to become the
first Big 12 regular-season champ to win the postseason tournament
since Iowa State in 2000.