EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- The kid with the famous NBA name
showed college basketball's player of the year how to do it.
John Lucas hit a 3-pointer with 6.9 seconds left, Jameer Nelson
missed right before the buzzer and Oklahoma State held off Saint
Joseph's 64-62 in a thriller Saturday night for a trip to the Final
"I made sure my feet were under me and just shot it," Lucas
said. Asked if he knew it was good the moment he let fly, he said,
And then in an NCAA tournament marked by late misses, it
Nelson's fadeaway jumper ticked off the rim and the East
Rutherford regional ended with the unanimous All-American sitting
on the court above the top of the key. His disbelieving teammates
scattered around, bent over at the hips and staring down.
"Every time I shoot the ball, I think it's in," Nelson said.
The last rebound fittingly landed in Lucas' arms, and he cradled
the ball. He celebrated by racing toward the stands and jumping
into his dad's arms for a big embrace.
The family has seen a lot of big shots -- the elder Lucas was a
former No. 1 NBA pick and enjoyed a stellar career before becoming
a pro coach. Now the son has a moment to call his own.
"We really didn't say too much of anything, we were just
hugging each other and rejoicing," the Cowboys star said.
A day earlier, Lucas spoke glowingly about Nelson's skill and
style, admiring the giant tattoo that stretches across his
opponent's back and reads "All Eyes on Me."
"He plays that way, and he lives up to it," Lucas said at the
time. "Tomorrow night, maybe all eyes will be on me."
Were they ever.
Coach Eddie Sutton and Oklahoma State (31-3) thought they
deserved to be a top seed more than Saint Joseph's (30-2) -- a view
held by many people and given voice by CBS analyst Billy Packer.
The Cowboys proved it the right way, on the court, and advanced
to play the Kansas-Georgia Tech winner next Saturday at the
Alamodome in San Antonio.
The Hawks headed back to their small campus in Philadelphia, the
feel-good story of the year in college basketball finally over.
"They will remember this team at Saint Joe's for a long time,"
Lucas shot 7-for-20 and scored 19 points, including the final
five of the game.
"I had a horrible first half. I shot three airballs. I never
shoot airballs," he said. "I told myself in the locker room at
halftime that I was going to step up."
It was a frenzied final minute, played without a timeout as the
68-year-old Sutton and counterpart Phil Martelli let the players
Lucas' jumper put Oklahoma State ahead with 41 seconds left
before Saint Joseph's, again relying on outside shots, regained the
lead on Pat Carroll's 3-pointer with 29.9 seconds to go.
Lucas then got free on the left wing and hit the biggest shot of
his career. Nelson tried to answer, but his shot over Daniel Bobik
"He's the best player in America. He's been doing it all
season," Carroll said. "Who better would you like to have the
ball in their hands?"
Oklahoma State earned its first Final Four trip since Sutton
took them there in 1995, when Bryant "Big Country" Reeves helped
the Cowboys win the regional final on the same Meadowlands court.
Reeves was in attendance as Sutton got his third trip overall
after also making it with Arkansas.
"I probably won't have too many more opportunities to get
there," Sutton said. "I won't be coaching forever."
McFarlin and Terrence Crawford are the only Oklahoma State
players left from 2001, when a plane crash killed two players and
eight members of the Cowboys' basketball family.
Lucas is familiar with tragedy, too. He transferred from Baylor
last summer in the aftermath of Patrick Dennehy's shooting death
and the scandal that enveloped the school.
Nelson shot 6-for-18 and finished with 17 points and Delonte West had 20 points.
"I missed some layups I should have made," Nelson said.
The game was billed as a matchup of the Hawks' speed vs. the
Cowboys' strength, and that's how it went for a while. But in the
end, it came down to what Allen said it would a day earlier --
"buckets" -- and Oklahoma State made the last one.
Lucas made only one of six shots before the break, and the
Cowboys trailed 33-27.
"I think he played at a faster clip in the second half,"
Martelli said. "I thought we could throw him out of synch. I
thought the speed with which they attacked in the second half was
the difference for him."
The CBS telecast opened with the Hawk and Cowboy mascots
standing right behind the announcers. Asked about his previous
comments on Saint Joseph's, Packer said, "This is an outstanding
team, they really play well together."