Stillwater, Okla. The trademark of Byron Eaton’s four years at Oklahoma State has been an uncanny ability to impose his will in a close game and guide the Cowboys to victory.
After his last chance to leave his mark in Gallagher-Iba Arena, Eaton told his teammates in the locker room: “It’s never felt so good.” That’s because his latest heroics could mean his first ever trip to the NCAA tournament.
Eaton scored 25 points in his final regular-season home game to lead Oklahoma State to a win against Kansas State on Tuesday night, keeping the Cowboys’ chances alive for a first-round bye in the Big 12 tournament.
“I think it was kind of a typical Byron Eaton performance,” coach Travis Ford said. “He put us on his shoulders when we needed it.”
Eaton hit a pair of free throws to break a 64-all tie with 3:40 remaining and put Oklahoma State (20-9, 9-6 Big 12) ahead for good. He added two more foul shots before Obi Muonelo’s three-pointer from the right wing extended the Cowboys’ lead to 71-64 with 2:38 left.
Kansas State (20-10, 8-7) got back within two, but Eaton then set up James Anderson for a three-pointer to help close it out for Oklahoma State. The Cowboys are trying to break a three-year NCAA tournament drought, and Ford thinks their six-game winning streak should be enough to do the trick.
“Byron Eaton played like a four-year starter, a McDonald’s All-American on his senior night with his team knowing that it has a tremendous opportunity,” K-State coach Frank Martin said. “He played like a champ. That’s what it’s all about.”
Denis Clemente scored 17 points and Darren Kent added 14 to lead the Wildcats, who came into the game tied with the Cowboys in a three-team race for the fourth and final bye in the conference tournament. Kansas State could still get the No. 4 seed with a home win Saturday against last-place Colorado combined with losses by Texas (20-9, 9-6) and Oklahoma State.
No team has ever won the Big 12 men’s tournament without a first-round bye, making the race that much more important.
Anderson finished with 16 points for Oklahoma State, and Marshall Moses added 10 points and 10 rebounds.