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Oklahoma State basketball: Remembering the shot that 'sneaked' the Cowboys into Final Four

Ten years ago, John Lucas became an OSU icon with shot that lifted team to NCAA Tournament semifinals
by Berry Tramel Published: March 30, 2014

Ten years ago this month, OSU’s Final Four hopes came down to three sneakers.

The shoes John Lucas had put on at halftime, and Joey Graham’s hightop that ripped just as the Cowboy basketball season reached its most critical point.

Funny how heroes are made. Lucas is a Cowboy icon forever. His 3-point shot with 6.9 seconds left in the 2004 East Regional put OSU ahead of Saint Joseph’s 64-62, and when Jameer Nelson’s 17-footer at the buzzer grazed only the front of the rim, the Cowboys were Final Four bound.

“When I hit the shot, it was like a relief of everything,” Lucas said. “Got to go to the Final Four.”

And it might never have happened had the sole of Graham’s sneaker not ripped with the clock ticking down on the OSU season. Pat Carroll’s 3-pointer for the Hawks put OSU in a 62-61 hole with 29.9 seconds left, and the drama was only beginning.

With no timeouts, the Cowboys were left to decide their fate on what Eddie Sutton had taught them through all those grueling practices and games. With 13.3 seconds left, Lucas, the point guard, passed back up top to Graham, the athletic 6-foot-7 forward who was a nightmare matchup for most defenders. Graham’s job was to drive the ball.

“Coach drew up the play,” Graham said, though it was not drawn up out of a timeout. “It was for me to take the last shot. When I took off, the soles of my shoe actually ripped. I knew I wasn’t going to make it to the basket on a ripped sole.”

Graham stumbled, Lucas’ defender fled him for Graham and for a second, the ball and the season bounced perilously free.

“Please kick it,” Lucas said to himself as he stood on the left wing. “Please kick it. Please kick it.”

Graham kicked it.

“The clock slowed down,” Graham said. “Then I saw guys creeping over. It was up to me to do something. I guess I made the right play, and John made a big-time shot.”

Graham tapped the ball out to Lucas. Graham’s defender, Tyrone Barley, went sailing at Lucas. But Barley was pursuing a supremely confident shooter.

Lucas, the 2004 Big 12 Player of the Year who had transferred from Baylor after the Bears’ scandal under coach Dave Bliss, was a dead-eye marksman that season. But Lucas had made just one of six shots in the first half against Saint Joe’s, and Lucas was anything but comfortable. So he changed shoes at halftime, and it made a world of difference.

“We came out the second half, and I hit my first shot,” Lucas said. “It was a stepback going to my left, and I thought, ‘It’s on now.’ It started dropping for me.”

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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