EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Bryant Reeves and Randy Rutherford have carried Oklahoma State to its first Final Four appearance since 1951, but if you were looking for a symbol yesterday of what makes the Cowboys tick, senior forward Scott Pierce was the prime example.
Minutes after Oklahoma State had eliminated Massachusetts in the East Regional final, Pierce sat in the Cowboys' dressing room, grinning widely to show off the space where his front tooth was before the game. Then there was the dried blood around Pierce's nose.
An accidental elbow by UMass point guard Derek Kellogg during the first half knocked out Pierce's tooth, sending him to the sidelines briefly. In the second half, Pierce left the game for a few seconds after his nose was bloodied during a scramble for a loose ball.
Neither wound could stop Pierce from playing one of the best games of his career. He scored 12 points -- two short of his career high -- on 6-for-8 shooting, and added eight rebounds.
It followed a terrible game against Wake Forest in the semifinals, in which Pierce went scoreless on 0-for-7 shooting. The next day at practice, Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton got Pierce's attention.
"I got on him pretty good. He knows it's nothing personal," Sutton said. "Then he came back and played one of the best games he's ever had at Oklahoma State."
Said Pierce: "After the game the other night, I was very down on my performance. Coming in here, I felt like this gave me a chance to redeem myself. When my first shot fell on the baseline, that gave me the confidence I needed."
Big Country is big-time
Coming into the Sweet 16, there were a few lingering questions about Reeves' ability. Is he quick enough? Does he have an all-around game? How many of his lofty numbers have come at the expense of suspect competition?
Reeves answered most of them at the Meadowlands while facing two dynamic young centers in Wake Forest's Tim Duncan and Marcus Camby. In those two games, Reeves scored 39 points, grabbed 19 rebounds, made 11 of 14 free throws, added four assists, took a handful of charges and set vicious picks.
"I've played against three of the top centers in the country [including Alabama's Antonio McDyess in the second round last week], and I think I've held my own pretty well," he said.
With his four three-pointers yesterday, Rutherford increased his career mark to 275, best in Big Eight history. His 142 threes this season were the third-best showing ever, topped only by Butler's Darrin Fitzgerald (158) and UNLV's Freddie Banks (152), both of whom accomplished those feats in 1987. . . The biggest bust for the Minutemen was former Dunbar star Donta Bright. In 21 minutes, the junior guard/forward scored three points on 0-for-4 shooting, while committing five turnovers.