Okla. State rally ousts Deacons Two top seeds toppled: Wake, Kansas ousted NCAA TOURNAMENT

March 25, 1995|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Sun Staff Writer

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J -- Oklahoma State got a typically great effort from its defense and a typically strong showing from its inside-outside combination of center Bryant Reeves and guard Randy Rutherford. But the Cowboys are headed to the Final Eight for the first time in 30 years because some unexpected players grabbed the spotlight with the season on the line.

Reserve guard Chianti Roberts made two key defensive plays and converted a huge layup in the final two minutes, and point guard Andre Owens forced Wake Forest star guard Randolph Childress to commit the night's biggest turnover, as Oklahoma State overcame a six-point, second-half deficit to take a 71-66 victory in the East Regional semifinals last night before a sellout crowd at the Meadowlands Arena.

The victory sends the fourth-seeded Cowboys (26-9) into tomorrow's regional final against Massachusetts or Tulsa.

"This is the most talented team I've had in the last few years. Of all the teams I've had at Oklahoma State, I thought this team had the best chance to get to the Final Four," said Cowboys coach Eddie Sutton, who is headed to the Final Eight for the first time in 25 years, the past five at Oklahoma State. "They're a seasoned club, a senior club, and they do what we tell them. I just like the way this team is playing."

Sutton loved the way the Cowboys kept their poise last night, especially in the closing seconds, when Childress (team-high 22 points) brought the ball up the floor to take a game-tying shot with the Demon Deacons (26-6) trailing, 69-66.

Owens, who covered Childress effectively for the final five minutes, met him at the top of the key and denied him a clear look at the basket. Then, with Reeves coming out to help, Childress lost control of the ball with eight seconds to go. The ball bounced off of Owens and Reeves, and Owens grabbed it and passed to forward Terry Collins for the game-ending dunk.

"We wanted to make him [Childress] shoot over us, instead of taking us off the dribble. One of the things we wanted to do was stop Childress from getting the ball in the last five minutes," Owens said. "It was like me and Bryant were playing tennis on that last play, and I finally got hold of it and got the ball to Terry."

Oklahoma State won in championship style. Combining a defense that limited Wake Forest center Tim Duncan to 12 points -- although he did grab 22 rebounds and block eight shots, both game-highs -- and an offense that set excellent screens for its backcourt and committed only six turnovers, the Cowboys took Wake Forest's best shots before delivering their knockout blow.

The Deacons erased a 33-31 halftime deficit with a 9-0 run to take a 43-40 lead five minutes into the second half. Then, with Childress supplying the spark, Wake Forest took a 56-50 lead with 8:01 remaining.

But the Cowboys kept countering, and did so with help from some lightly regarded players, including reserves Roberts and Jason Skaer. Skaer (seven points) hit back-to-back three-pointers to pull Oklahoma State to within 53-48 and Roberts (13 points) cut Wake Forest's lead to 56-53 with a three with 7:42 left.

After a foul shot by Reeves (15 points, nine rebounds), Rutherford scored four straight points to complete an 11-2 run that gave Oklahoma State a 61-58 lead with four minutes left.

Wake Forest would not go quietly. With help from its own surprise contributor -- reserve guard Rusty LaRue scored a career-high 17 points on 5-for-7 shooting from three-point range -- the Deacons closed the gap to 65-63 with 1:37 to go, then 67-66 with 23 seconds left, both on LaRue shots from the corner.

The Deacons called their last timeout, then quickly fouled Rutherford, who converted both shots for the last of his team-high 23 points with 20.4 seconds left to make it 69-66. That set up Childress' season-ending turnover.

"I love everybody on our team," said Wake Forest coach Dave Odom, who was trying to lead the Deacons to the Elite Eight for the first time since 1984. "I hurt for those who won't have another chance."

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