February 28, 2009

Holy Moses! No. 33 leads State past UT

STILLWATER - If Oklahoma State is facing an elimination situation from here on out, then today's victory over Texas was a case of survive and advance.

The Cowboys, in front of the best home crowd in years, jumped out early and survived a late Longhorn charge to post a 68-59 victory in front of 11,555 inside Gallagher-Iba Arena on Saturday.

With the win, OSU (19-9 overall, 8-6 Big 12) keeps itself in position to state its case for an NCAA Tournament bid and posts a win over a top 25 team to boot, as UT (19-9, 8-6) came into Orange Country with a No. 25 ranking in the Associated Press poll.

But the victory didn't come without some high drama late in the game. Up by 17 points just after halftime, the Horns fought back in the second half, cutting the Cowboy lead to just one point with 4:35 left. That mark was the middle of what became an eight-minute field goal drought for the Pokes, who only scored by hitting seven free throws between 9:14 and 1:10. Even with the drought - and Byron Eaton fouling out with 5:01 left - OSU held onto the lead. Marshall Moses' jumper broke that nasty dry spell and put OSU up, 62-57. From there, the Cowboys were able to keep UT from coming back again.

"I got the ball down there and I knew we needed a bucket," Moses said of his late-game shot. "I didn't want Obi's (Muonelo) man to help and double down. I knew I was going to shoot it."

If there's a hero of the day for the Pokes, it's most certainly Moses, who scored 15 points and grabbed 16 rebounds. He had a hot hand early, scoring OSU's first six points, including a board and bucket combo. By the half, he had already had 10 points and 11 boards.

"When Marshall is playing with high energy and is focused, with his mind in it and is really concentrating, he brings a great strength to our team as far as a guy down low who we can throw it to," said head coach Travis Ford. He is somebody with some strength who can battle inside. He may not be the most athletic or the tallest, but he's so strong he can create space. When Marshall is really focusing he is a very smart player and has a great understanding of the game."

His performance didn't go unnoticed by UT.

"He produced well," said Damion James. At one point, we were down three and he hit a shot to go up five. He hit big shots all day. Coach (Rick Barnes) came in at halftime and said he had a double-double already. We pretty much knew we had to come out and make adjustments. We did, but he just came up big when they needed him. I would like to give him a lot of credit for that."

James Anderson turned in a solid evening, scoring 16 points. Terrel Harris had 13 second-half points after going scoreless in the first frame and Keiton Page posted 10 of his own. But the best performance not put up by Moses was likely the one turned in by the OSU fans. For the first time in what feels like forever, there was orange all over the place in every section and Gallagher-Iba rocked like it used to. When Muonelo sank a layup with 3:53 left in the first, the Cowboys went up 25-13 and GIA boomed like an SR-71.

Their performance didn't go unnoticed by the Cowboys.

"It was incredible," Ford said. "Just walking out before the game and seeing the place pretty much full. You could feel it the last couple of days, you could feel it. I was across campus yesterday walking around campus trying to get students involved and buy tickets. But you could feel it in the air that this was going to be an exciting game and we were going to get the support we needed. And it really makes a difference."

"It was one of the most-fun games, if not the most fun game, I've ever played in," Moses said. "It feels great to know that our fans support us like that. That team beat us by 30 (previously) but they believed we could win."

The Cowboys defense proved to be a big difference-maker in the game. They held A.J. Abrams to nine points on 3-of-15 shooting and big man Dexter Pittman only had two first-half points (before finishing with 12). James led the way for UT, posting 18 points and 18 rebounds, but only had four points in the first 20 minutes.

Now winners of five straight, the Cowboys look ahead to Kansas State on Tuesday. That game is set for a 6:30 p.m. tip and will be shown nationally on ESPN2.

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