STILLWATER — As they chanted his name inside Gallagher-Iba Arena – “Cezar! Cezar! Cezar!” – a nod typically reserved for seniors and legends, Cowboys freshman Cezar Guerrero prompted the Gallagher-Iba Arena crowd for more Wednesday night.
Standing at midcourt, his name echoing, Guerrero raised his arms slowly, hungrily.
And why not? After all, Guerrero gave plenty to them.
The freshman from Bellflower, Calif., scored six points in the final 12 seconds of regulation to force overtime, then struck for eight more in the extra period to rally Oklahoma State to a stunning 90-85 win over Texas-San Antonio.
Guerrero finished with 29 points, tying an OSU freshman record he now shares with James Anderson and Byron Houston. His eight 3-pointers are the second-most in school history.
“Wow,” said the Cowboys other freshman, top recruit Le'Bryan Nash. “I really believe in him. We were just watching his mix tape earlier, his high school highlights. He was showing me stuff he did in high school.
“I've seen it now in college.”
The Cowboys, improving to 3-0 and sweeping their pod games in the NIT Season Tip-Off, now advance to the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden next week.
Guerrero can't wait.
“New York is a big place, and it's something special,” Guerrero said, noting that he's never been. “I want to go. All of us want to go. We want to go enjoy it and play in Madison Square Garden.
“That's one of the things on my bucket list. It really is, to be honest with you.”
Sparking an improbable comeback and finding himself serenaded by the GIA fans, all within his first three games as a Cowboy, shouldn't be taken lightly, either.
And it was all earned, after Guerrero first kept OSU hanging around with UTSA throwing repeated haymakers, then delivered a comeback that will be recalled as epic by the 4,000 who witnessed it.
The Cowboys were playing without captain and senior Keiton Page, who missed the game with an injured toe and sat on the bench in a boot. And they were playing mostly from behind, needing a spark from somebody with the veterans struggling to produce.
Nearing the two-minute mark, OSU trailed by 11, 71-60. And the Cowboys were still down six, 77-71, with 18 seconds left.
“I just told them, ‘Hey, it is our moment. We've got to embrace it and take it as it is and give it all we got,'” Guerrero said.
The spunky freshman forced his way inside, scored from close range and drew a foul, completing the three-point play to cut the lead to 77-74 with 12 seconds remaining. With the Cowboys pressing, Guerrero then picked Michael Hale for a steal and immediately fired in a 3-pointer to tie it.
“It looked like Reggie Miller back then,” said Nash, who added 18 points and nine rebounds.
UTSA's Sei Paye, who had fired in a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat Oral Roberts on Tuesday night, missed on a running shot in the final seconds. And once into overtime, Guerrero completed the storybook finish.
He scored on a running, reverse flip shot to put OSU up 81-80, then drilled two 3-pointers after the Roadrunners had pulled back in front, sending the Cowboys ahead 87-85 with :56 to play in the overtime.
UTSA never scored again, with Guerrero taking a charge to halt one possession, then finally pulling the down the final rebound and dribbling the clock out, before firing the ball high in the air.
Even when a loss looked certain, Guerrero said he always believed.
“The biggest cheerleader, who never ever gave up, was Guerrero,” OSU coach Travis Ford said. “He's the one guy in the huddle, when everyone was kind of bleak, fans were leaving and I was ready to go with them.
“He's the one who kept saying to everybody in the huddle, ‘We're going to win this thing. We're winning.'
“And he would break our huddle saying, ‘One, two, three win.' Everybody else is just kind of looking at him. True story.”