The only evidence showing that Oklahoma State guard Byron Eaton had played the first half against Texas Tech in the first round of the Big 12 tournament was his sweaty uniform. Other than that, the box score revealed that Eaton was nowhere to be found in the offense, scoreless after missing three attempts. And this was from the starting point guard. But after the first-half hiatus, Eaton reappeared when it mattered most, leading the Cowboys to the 76-72 victory in the early Thursday game. Oklahoma State, the ninth seed and now 17-14, will meet top-ranked Texas in the 11:30 a.m. Friday game. “I challenged him at halftime that he had to be the best point guard on the floor,” coach Sean Sutton said of Eaton. “He came back and scored 12 points in the second half and made a lot of big plays down the stretch.” In the final six minutes of the tight contest, Eaton scored seven of his 12 points while also assisting sophomore Obi Muonelo’s game-tying bucket. Eaton later turned even more offensive as he was watched by Texas Tech freshman Charlie Burgess. Eaton, stocky at 5-foot-11 and 213 pounds but packing speed, overwhelmed Burgess on his way into the teeth of Tech’s defense for a lay up to build a 71-68 OSU advantage. On the next possession with one minute critically expiring away, Eaton pumped fake an anxious Burgess and knocked down the open 17-foot jump shot.
“Marcus Dove told me ‘It’s your turn. It’s your turn to run the team,’” Eaton said of his teammate’s halftime encouragement that echoed Sutton’s. “These last few games (Sutton) has challenged me the most. I’ve been going up against some good guys and he’s telling me I need to come out there and run my team. I think I’ve been doing a great job of responding to his challenge. I just have to keep it up.”
Texas Tech (16-15) had a chance to tie the score in the waning seconds but Burgess tripped while penetrating the middle of the paint and lost the ball for the Red Raiders’ 14th turnover. Oklahoma State freshman James Anderson recovered the loose ball, was fouled by Burgess and made both free throws to seal the win. The Red Raiders “That’s not what lost the game for us,” Texas Tech coach Pat Knight said. “We saw mistakes like that throughout the game and that’s what really killed us.”
The Cowboys are now 4-1 against Texas Tech in the Big 12 championship.
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THE HERO: Behind Byron Eaton, Oklahoma State yielded success from its late-game offense but defense wins games, right? Freshman James Anderson rejected Charlie Burgess’ drive with less than 40 seconds remaining. We’re prepared to give Anderson his props even though Tech coach Pat Knight may not like it.
“I thought it was goal-tending but what can I do,” Knight said.
THE GOAT: Why flame one player when Texas Tech made this loss a team effort? For starters, starting guards John Roberson and Charlie Burgess may want to destroy this game tape. Roberson, who previously torched OSU in their last meeting with 20 points, was silent with only two. Burgess couldn’t check his man down the stretch nor could he match Eaton. Down by three, Burgess had a late lay up blocked then lost the ball on Tech’s final possession that could’ve tied the game.
KEY PLAY: There were 20 lead changes and 11 ties but this seesaw game finally favored the Cowboys when Obi Munelo gave OSU the 69-67 lead with 3:14 remaining. Texas Tech guard Alan Voskuil, so effective in the first half with three triples, bricked an attempt beyond the arc then Tech still couldn’t match OSU when Trevor Cook only made one of two free throws. OSU retained the lead the rest of the way.
KEY STAT: Oklahoma State stuffed the Red Raiders for five blocks.