(3) Pittsburgh 51

(31-5, 13-3 Big East)

(2) Oklahoma St 63

(30-3, 14-2 Big 12)

    7:27 PM ET, March 25, 2004

    IZOD Center, East Rutherford, New Jersey

    1 2 T
    #3PITT 28 2351
    #2OKST 26 3763

    Allen guides OSU into Elite Eight

    EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Solving one of the nation's most rugged defenses got Oklahoma State to the regional final and kept alive hopes for longtime coach Eddie Sutton's first national title.

    Oklahoma State took Pittsburgh's pushes, shoves and banging for 33 minutes, then delivered a knockout blow with a late 17-5 run that carried the Cowboys to a 63-51 win Thursday night.

    "We played loose, got a chance to run and we capitalized on that," Cowboys guard Janavor Weatherspoon said. "We like to get up and down, and in the second half we got opportunities. That was the difference."

    Dick Vitale's Tourney Take
    The Panthers' inability to score finally caught up with them. In the first two rounds of the tourney, Pittsburgh scored under 60 points in each game but was able to survive and advance thanks to a strong defensive effort. But against Oklahoma State, the offense of guard Tony Allen and forward Joey Graham was too much. Allen showed why he was the Big 12 player of the year. He was a dominant force, scoring 23 points and making great one-on-one plays. The Panthers couldn't hit perimeter shots consistently, and in this game it was their Achilles' heel. Pittsburgh's defense kept it close, and with the score tied 42-42 in the second half it was anybody's game. But a late spurt by Oklahoma State put the contest out of reach and propelled the Cowboys into the Elite Eight.
    More on Thursday's Games
    Oklahoma State (30-3) will meet top-seeded Saint Joseph's on Saturday in the East Rutherford Regional for the right to go to San Antonio for the Final Four.

    It will be the sixth regional final for the 68-year-old Sutton. He has been to the Final Four twice, but he has never gotten to the championship game.

    This one would be special. Just two years ago, two players and eight other people associated with the program died in a plane crash in Colorado.

    After being held to 30 percent shooting from the field in the first half, Oklahoma State hit 16-of-25 shots in the final 20 minutes against the Panthers' aggressive man-to-man defense. The Panthers were the second-toughest team in the country to score against this season, allowing 56.2 points per game.

    Not only did the Cowboys shoot better, but they kept Pittsburgh (31-5) off the offensive boards, allowing only four second-chance opportunities after giving up 12 in the first half.

    "In the first half, we were playing to their level, which was slowing the game down," Oklahoma State forward Ivan McFarlin said. "It made it hard to play defense on the halfcourt end. They gave us their runs and we closed it out with great defense."

    Tony Allen led the Cowboys with 23 points in a game that was a lot closer than the final score.

    Carl Krauser had 15 points and Jaron Brown 11 for the Panthers, who lost in the regional semifinal for the third straight year. Pittsburgh senior guard Julius Page had five points on 2-for-11 shooting, ending an up-and-down season with another bad performance.

    "It's crazy," said Krauser, who only had four points in the second half. "For me, it's two times in a row and for some of us, it's three times. It's like a big cloud over our heads. I really felt that this was the team to make it to the national championship, but we just made things easier for them in the second half."

    Neither team led by more than five points in the first 30 minutes of a game that was almost like a heavyweight fight.

    For each jab, there was a counter with both teams playing aggressive defense.

    Pittsburgh and rookie coach Jamie Dixon seemed to have the edge because Oklahoma State struggled to find its up-tempo game.

    The Cowboys finally broke loose after Krauser hit a floater in the lane to tie the game at 42 with 7:51 to play.

    Then the Big 12 champions took over.

    Joey Graham broke the tie with a jumper from the right wing and Allen stretched the lead to four points on a drive down the left side of the lane.

    Ironically, the basket was set up when Chevon Troutman of Pittsburgh was shoved along the baseline on Pitt's possession and stepped out of bounds.

    After Troutman and Graham exchanged baskets, Graham hit another jumper for a 50-44 lead with 5:07 to go.

    Brown, who was in foul trouble early, gave the Panthers one last ray of hope hitting a 3-pointer to cut the gap to 50-47 with about 4:45 to play.

    Allen answered with a 3-pointer and the game quickly got out of hand when Weatherspoon scored on a fastbreak and Allen got another basket for a 57-47 edge.

    "Allen just made a lot of tough plays, tough shots down the stretch," Krauser said. "It was a big turning point of the game and we couldn't do anything to stop him. You think you're doing well and then, bang, you get stabbed in the back and it's over. I think we were real comfortable in the first half and we just made some big mistakes in the second half."

    Both teams predicted a physical game on Wednesday and that's just what they got.

    Pittsburgh took a 28-26 lead in a first half in which the teams combined to hit six jumpers, and that was a generous count.

    Air balls, players hitting the floor after shots and whistles sending the teams to the foul line were more common than the ball going through the twine.

    The Panthers got the lead because Krauser found ways to drive around the Oklahoma State defense for 11 points, and Troutman, Chris Taft and Mark McCarroll did some good work inside.

    They combined for nine of Pittsburgh's 12 offensive rebounds, most of which led to either putbacks or second chances.

    Allen was the only constant for the Cowboys. The senior guard went 3-for-6 from the field and hit all four of his free throws.

    The rest of the Cowboys were 3-for-14 from the field as the Panthers' defense gave Oklahoma State few open looks and not one fastbreak.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press



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