January 26, 2008

Gigged in Stillwater

STILLWATER - With two minutes left in the game, Oklahoma State was up over Texas A&M by a slim 56-53 margin.

Then a Byron Eaton turnover at midcourt gave the Aggies an opportunity and they did not miss a chance to take control of the game. A Bryan Davis layup with 1:08 left put A&M down by one point and then Dominique Kirk hit two free throw shots to put the Aggies up by one with 43 seconds to go. From there, the Pokes missed two free throw shots and a three-pointer while A&M hit two more from the line to close out a 59-56 victory over OSU at Gallagher-Iba Arena in front of 10,369 fans.

The Cowboys (10-9 overall, 1-4 Big 12) battled most of the way with No. 16 A&M (16-4, 2-3), before fading away late. The Pokes failed to hit a field goal the last 3:57 of the game.

Head coach Sean Sutton didn't mince words after the game, putting the blame squarely on his shoulders.

"I told our guys in the dressing room afterwards that I take responsibility for this loss," Sutton said. "That I didn't do a very good job for them the last two or three minutes of that game and made some really poor, poor offensive calls down the stretch. And, as a result, we didn't get the looks that we needed to when we had the lead and a chance to extend it. Just not a very good job on my part and I'm disappointed for them, because I thought their effort was there, but we just didn't find a way to close it out and that was my fault."

Eaton took responsibility as well, as his turnover with 1:43 left took away a chance to build on the three-point lead.

"I tried to grab it and he had grabbed my arm," said Eaton of the situation. "I knew that they were going to try and foul, so I was trying to get it down close so I could try to throw it up while they were in the act of fouling, but he had grabbed my arm so fast I wasn't able to get the ball. But I still should have grabbed it and gave my team an opportunity."

The game turned out to be a frustrating one for the Pokes, who saw good play from younger players - Ibrahima Thomas scored 13 points in 22 minutes and James Anderson scored 15 - while the older ones had poor performances. Combined, Eaton, Terrel Harris and Marcus Dove shot 4-of-25 from the field for a grand total of 13 points.

A dejected Eaton said after the game that it was tough to see that happen in a big conference game such as this.

"Coach told us at the beginning of the year that the three of us had to play big for our team in order for us to win," Eaton said. "I didn't play as well as I should have. Terrel didn't do a very good job and Marcus has to play better. The veterans didn't do a good job and that is one of the main reasons we weren't successful tonight."

This loss to the Aggies becomes just another in a string of hard losses in the Big 12, coming on the heels of the close games against Baylor, Iowa State and Texas.

"We've got to execute it at the last two or three minutes - that's when you win basketball games," Sutton said. "We put ourselves in position to win every one of these games so far and we've got one win to show for it. I do think we're playing better defense and doing a better job of taking care of the ball.

"I always think like (the players) feel they're going to win. It felt like that's the look they had Monday night, that's the look they had tonight, that's the look they had in Ames last Saturday. But the bottom line is, you've got to make plays when the ball is on the line."

The Cowboys next take the court against Bedlam rival Oklahoma Monday night in Norman. The game will be a part of ESPN's Big Monday package.

It was mentioned above that the Pokes went dry from the field late in the second half. What wasn't mentioned was that OSU had a sizeable dry stretch to end the first half as well. After a layup from Obi Muonelo put OSU up 32-29, the Pokes didn't sink a field goal the final 2:09 of the opening frame. ... The Cowboys forced A&M into committing 16 turnovers, while OSU only committed eight turnovers. ... Thomas' afternoon was a solid one, especially the first part of the second half. He scored eight points in about three game minutes. ... In the first half, the Pokes were hot from outside, going 6-of-12 from long distance. In the second, however, things got icy, as they hit only three of 12 shots from outside. ... Free throws are often a difference-maker in any game. This was the case on Saturday afternoon. A&M went 10-of-13 from the charity stripe (76.9 percent) while the Cowboys only made five of 12 free pitches (41.7). ... While most fans will likely remember Anderson in this game for missing a three-pointer as six seconds left, what likely won't be remembered is that he went 4-of-6 from outside. The rest of the team was 5-of-18 (27.7).

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