Oklahoma State coaches have been encouraging Byron Eaton in recent days to focus on his passing and assists, hoping it wouldn't affect his scoring. Thankfully for the Cowboys, it didn't seem to on Wednesday night.
The senior point guard capped a career-high 29-point outing with a driving layup with 29.4 seconds left as Oklahoma State rallied from an early 16-point deficit to beat Texas Tech 81-80.
Eaton went 18 of 20 from the free-throw line, the third-highest totals in school history in both free throws made and attempted, for Oklahoma State (14-7, 3-4 Big 12 Conference).
Texas Tech (11-11, 1-6) led most of the way and never trailed by more than one point. John Roberson missed a 10-foot shot in the lane in the final seconds for the Red Raiders, and a tied ball on the ensuing rebound went to Oklahoma State with 4.4 seconds left. Texas Tech couldn't foul Eaton or Keiton Page before time expired after the Cowboys inbounded.
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"Byron played great defense and put the team on his shoulders," Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said. "...I liked the attitude he played with."
Alan Voskuil scored 21 points for Texas Tech, which has lost four straight games overall and nine straight road games dating back to last season. Wednesday's game fell on the one-year anniversary of the date Pat Knight took over from his father, Bob Knight, as the Red Raiders' coach.
"I feel bad for these guys," Pat Knight said. "You hit a layup here or there, it's a different story. I just feel bad for them. They deserve to win that. You know, they play on the road and give that type of effort, but life's tough. You can do two things. You can quit, or you can just keep on keeping on. We just have no choice."
The Cowboys avoided what would have been their third straight loss at Gallagher-Iba Arena, something that's only happened to them once since the 1988-89 season. The Cowboys, who trailed by 12 points at halftime, matched the school record for the largest halftime deficit overcome in a win, set against Louisville on Dec. 6, 1980, and also matched against Missouri on March 3, 1996.
"Tonight we deserved it," Ford said. "We had a good attitude all night long. We stayed into the game and stayed positive. We stayed positive and we stayed patient when things weren't going our way at all."
With road games coming up against No. 21 Kansas and No. 16 Texas, Ford said the Cowboys had to beat Texas Tech, calling it "one of those must wins."
The Red Raiders led 59-45 with 14:42 left before an 8-0 Oklahoma State run pulled the Cowboys within six points with more than 13 minutes still to go.
But Oklahoma State didn't complete its rally until the final three minutes. Eaton's three-point play with 2:44 gave the Cowboys their first lead at 77-76, and the lead changed hands three more times before Eaton's final basket.
Knight said the plan on the Red Raiders' final possession was to "take your first good shot," but said they might have waited a little too long to do so.
"We got a good look at it," he said. "John's hit that shot a bunch of other times."
Eaton, who entered the game shooting 72.9 percent from the free-throw line this season, drew 11 fouls in the second half, many as he was driving to the basket after Texas Tech defenders cut off passing lanes to the Cowboys' 3-point shooters.
"We get a lot of 3-point opportunities, but we also need someone to go to the rim," Eaton said. "I was able to get some calls tonight."
And then he was able to knock down the free throws, even though Eaton expressed dissatisfaction with missing two attempts.
"He's very good at driving the ball (and) drawing fouls," Knight said. "He causes a lot of problems."
Terrel Harris scored 22 points and Marshall Moses matched his career high with 18 points and added eight rebounds for Oklahoma State. James Anderson grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds to go with seven points.
Oklahoma State shot 41.7 percent from the field and the Cowboys struggled even more from 3-point range, finishing 5 of 21 (23.8 percent)
Oklahoma State's shooting problems in the first half allowed Texas Tech to quickly build a double-digit lead. A 3-pointer by Voskuil put Texas Tech up 23-8 with 10:31 left and Ford immediately called timeout and walked halfway out on the court with his hands on his head in exasperation.
It soon got worse for Oklahoma State, as another 3-pointer by Voskuil put Texas Tech up 28-12. The Cowboys cut the margin to seven points at 34-27, but the Red Raiders' 56.7 percent shooting helped them rebuild their lead to 47-35 by halftime.
Roberson added 15 points and seven assists for Texas Tech, which shot 32.4 percent from the field in the second half. Robert Lewandowski had 10 points and 10 assists for the Red Raiders, who outrebounded Oklahoma State 39-35.