By Justin Hite-NewsPress
DAYTON, Ohio — Marshall Moses sat on the bench, afraid to look at his coach as the minutes ticked away during Oklahoma State’s first round NCAA Tournament battle with Tennessee.
Moses gave Tennessee 2 points on a technical foul but was bailed out with 7 seconds remaining when Byron Eaton drove the lane and switched hands in mid-air to score the game-winning basket and give Oklahoma State a 77-75 victory and a ticket to the next round of the NCAA Tournament.
Moses slapped the backboard on an influential dunk late in the game and gave Tennessee two free throws — both of which they hit.
“I was scared to look at coach,” Moses said. “It was in my mind, but luckily Byron saved me with that bucket at the end.”
Tyler Smith hit a layup and a free throw with 24 seconds left to give Tennessee a 1-point lead, but Eaton gathered his teammates and told them they were going to win — asking for the ball in the closing seconds even before Travis Ford gave him the chance.
“Before coach said it, I said it,” Eaton said. “I told my teammates don’t worry about it. I told Marshall (Moses), ‘Come set me a flat screen, I’m going to get somebody a shot or I’m going to get a shot.’ When I get going I don’t think too many people can stop me, especially when I got my pull-up jumper working.”
Eaton’s jump shot was working for most of the afternoon and in the first half was 4-for-5 from the field — finishing at a clip of 7-for-10.
After his lay-up Eaton was worried that he had left too much time on the clock. Ford had drawn up a double screen for Moses and Eaton, but Eaton used Moses’ first screen to open up the lane with an gap that came earlier than expected.
“If the opening comes you have to take it,” Eaton said.
Eaton scored a team-high 20 points and three other Cowboys scored in double figures. Moses recorded his seventh career double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds, while Terrel Harris scored 15 and James Anderson added 10 — but the Cowboys’ first 6 points in the first half.
“It was a wild moment and (Byron)’s made plays like that all year, now on a national stage where everybody gets to see it,” Moses said.
As the rest of the team and coaching staff ran off the court to celebrate the victory, Eaton remained at the same free throw line where he knocked down the last point of the game. He stood embraced in the arms of assistant coach Chris Ferguson.
“Where he’s come from and he took a lot of criticism over the last four years and to see him come out like this as a senior to make that shot in the NCAA Tournament, first time he’d been in four years, it’s an incredible feeling,” Ferguson said. “I just wanted to let him know how much I cared and loved him.”
Just before leaving the court, Eaton told Ferguson one thing in his excitement.
“’Coach it’s my time, it’s my time,’” Ferguson said. “And he’s right - it is his time. After four years it deserves to be his time.”