- The Washington Times - Friday, March 26, 2004

EAST RUTHERFORD, N. J. — It was vintage playground basketball — and Oklahoma State is one step away from the Final Four as a result.

Cowboys guard Tony Allen displayed a series of moves in the lane, nailed a critical 3-pointer and provided other key points as the Cowboys struggled to get their transition game going.

The versatile shooting guard was the rare offensive bright spot in a game dominated by defense and turned a tight battle into a runway in Oklahoma State’s 63-51 win over Pittsburgh in an East Rutherford regional semifinal game last night at Continental Airlines Arena.

“Everybody has different elements that are brought out in the game,” said Oklahoma State point guard John Lucas III. “Everybody has those battles when they are on the court where there is glass, you get cut up a little bit, but you just don’t care. Tonight he had one of those.”

The slashing shooting guard had 23 points in a game mostly devoid of offense. The Cowboys held offensively challenged Pitt to 23 points in the first half on 35.7 percent shooting. Oklahoma State was finally able to get its transition game going and shot 64 percent in the second to overcome a horrific performance (30 percent) before intermission.

Oklahoma State, the East Rutherford region’s fourth seed, will meet the winner of last night’s late game between top-seed Saint Joseph’s and No.4 Wake Forest for the regional title tomorrow. The Cowboys (31-3) have won nine straight and will be shooting for their first Final Four berth since 1995.

Pitt (31-5) lost in the Sweet 16 for a third consecutive season.

The game changed midway through the second half when the Cowboys were finally able to speed up a previously halfcourt game and Allen was able to take advantage of one-on-one talents honed in his hometown of Chicago.

“We could control the boards a little, [and] we were able to run,” said Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton, whose team had only one assist in the first half. “And we are a lot better basketball team when we are able to get the ball and run with it. We got some baskets there. But our defensive board play was so much better. We didn’t give up a lot of second shots.”

Both teams had runs early in the second half before Oklahoma State pulled away with an 11-0 run to make it 61-47 with 1:03 left. The run came immediately after Jaron Brown had cut the Cowboys’ lead to three on a 3-pointer. Allen answered with his own 3 from the left wing after hesitating when he noticed that Brown, who had three fouls at the time, had backed off.

“I just took what the defense gave me,” said Allen, who made eight of 14 field goals and all six of his free throws. “He sagged off a little further than I thought he was going to.”

Allen’s steal on Pitt’s next possession led to a fastbreak layup for Janavo Weatherspoon. A spin move and score by Allen widened the lead to 10. Lucas provided a mid-range jumper before Allen widened the lead further with a pair of 3-pointers.

Allen, a 6-4 shooting guard, outdueled Pitt’s lone offensive threat Carl Krauser (15 points). The Panthers point guard kept his team close but eventually was stopped as the Cowboys’ defense collapsed on him, and no teammate picked up the scoring slack.

“It’s just one of those days where it caught up with us as far as not executing, and not getting the shots we wanted,” said Pitt coach Jamie Dixon, whose Panthers had difficulties scoring all season. “[Oklahoma State] shot the ball well, made their free throws [15 of 16] and executed well on the offensive end.”

Allen, a junior college transfer, had put Oklahoma State up for good after crossing the lane to create his own short-range jumper to make it 44-42, and added a reverse layup to push the lead to four.

Oklahoma State’s last visit to the Elite Eight was in 2000 when it lost to Florida in the East Region. Lucas, the Big 12 Player of the Year, struggled in the first half but helped the Cowboys with five assists after the break.

The teams traded blows early in the second half. Pitt scored six straight to take a 36-33 lead on a breakaway layup by Brown. After an Oklahoma State timeout, the Cowboys answered with a 9-0 run. Daniel Bobik’s 3-pointer gave Oklahoma State the lead at 38-36. A nice move and score by Allen in the lane pushed the lead to four, and Allen made a nice dish after drawing to defense and Ivan McFarlin finished with a layup to make it 42-36.

However, Pitt answered with six straight points and tied the game on Krauser’s one-handed push shot just inside the foul line.

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