After around thirty-eight minutes of legitimate March Madness, the Oklahoma State Cowboys found themselves down by one, at 75-74.
The game had already seen seventeen lead changes, and ten ties; with around fifteen seconds left on the clock, the Cowboys pushed the ball forward.
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Point guard Byron Eaton sniffed out a rift in the Volunteer defense just wide enough to push through. He penetrated, inducing contact with Tyler Smith, and crashed to the floor as his lay-up fell through the iron.
With the free throw, Eaton extended the lead to two, at 77-75, and, ultimately, sealed the Cowboy victory.
The contest was just about everything a basketball fan could ask for.
The Volunteers traded leads with the Cowboys for much of the first half, going up by seven before a thirteen-two Oklahoma State run to close out the frame. The boys from Oklahoma went in at half with a four point lead, 38-34.
The second half was generally more of the same; with a lot of back and forth, a lot of lead changes and a lot of running.
After Eaton’s three-point play, Tennessee pressed down the court, eventually getting Tyler Smith a good look from three-point land. It banked off the iron, however, and straight into the air as the buzzer sounded. Smith ended with 21, to lead the Volunteer’s offense.
Eaton led the charge for Oklahoma State with 20.
Fittingly, the story doesn’t end there. Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl was left fuming by what he thought was a foul on the final shot of the game. As the officials exited, Pearl trailed them, filling their ears with myriad, probably unprintable, choice words.
Regardless, Oklahoma State will move on to play the winner of the Pittsburgh-Eastern Tennessee contest.
After three years of wallowing in the dubious glory of the NIT, the Cowboys are back in the NCAA Tournament, and looking promising under first-year head coach Travis Ford.
With Kansas and Oklahoma State both proving victorious on Friday, the Big 12 Conference remains undefeated in the national tournament.
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