8:00 PM ET, February 24, 2004
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -- Rickey Paulding and Arthur Johnson picked the right time to live up the preseason hype.Paulding, a preseason all-American, scored 31 points Tuesday and Johnson had 29, including a pair of free throws with 30.3 seconds left in the second overtime to give Missouri a 93-92 win over sixth-ranked Oklahoma State. The two seniors have suffered through up-and-down seasons but have played significant roles in the Tigers' late-season surge. Paulding flung the ball into the stands and hundreds of fans stormed the court to celebrate when a last-second jumper by Oklahoma State's John Lucas bounced off the rim, giving the Tigers (14-10, 8-5 Big 12) their fifth straight win and putting them back in contention for an NCAA tournament berth. The loss ended an 11-game winning streak for Oklahoma State (21-3, 11-2) and dropped the Cowboys into a first-place Big 12 tie with Texas. "I think the seniors stepped up," Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton said of Missouri. "All of a sudden they looked around and said, 'God, this is going to be over and we're not going to go to the big dance.' And now I think they're in a position where they can go." Missouri led for most of the game and seemed headed for a relatively easy win after consecutive 3-pointers by Paulding put the Tigers up 71-62 with 4:52 to play. But Oklahoma State went to a full-court press for the rest of regulation that baffled the Tigers, forcing five straight missed shots. The Cowboys went on an 11-2 run that sent the game into overtime. Missouri's Thomas Gardner made an off-balance 3-pointer with 24 seconds left in the first overtime to tie the game and force the second overtime. In the second overtime, the lead changed hands six times, the last when Johnson hit both free throws after he was fouled by Tony Allen, who had 24 points. After an Oklahoma State timeout with 25 seconds left, Lucas dribbled away the clock before attempting a last-second 3-pointer that bounced high off the back of the rim. "We were playing for the last shot," said Lucas, who led Oklahoma State with 30 points. "We were going for the win or we were going for the loss." Missouri improved to 2-5 against ranked teams. Five of the Tigers' losses have been in overtime or by four points or less. "We've lost this game a couple of times, but we didn't stop playing," Missouri coach Quin Snyder said. After dropping to 9-10 following a loss at Nebraska on Feb. 7, the Tigers have begun to play like they were expected to when picked as the nation's No. 4 team in the preseason. Missouri seemed a long shot for even an NIT bid before its recent surge. The Tigers have three regular-season games remaining, including two against ranked teams -- at No. 25 Texas Tech on March 3 and at home against No. 20 Kansas on March 7. Paulding is averaging 15.2 points, but was shooting just 38.8 percent from the field. Against Oklahoma State, he was 9-17, including 5-6 from 3-point range. Johnson was 10-23 but scored five of Missouri's 11 points in the second overtime. He also had 13 rebounds. "I'm proud of A.J.," Paulding said. "He stepped up and hit some big shots, hit some big free throws. He was definitely our emotional leader." Missouri led by as many as 13 points in the first half and was up 50-39 at the break. Both teams came out running, but the Tigers were hot, hitting 18 of 32 first-half shots (56 percent). Missouri began the game with a 9-3 run, but Oklahoma State went ahead 21-20 with 12:35 to go in the first half when Jason Miller tipped in a missed shot. The Cowboys wouldn't lead again until overtime. Missouri dominated the final 12 minutes of the first half, going on a 25-11 run to go ahead 45-32 after Johnson blocked a shot at one end and Paulding made a 3-pointer at the other with 2:17 to go. Lucas hit a desperation, falling-down 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to cut the lead to 47-39 with 20 seconds to go in the half. But Paulding responded with a 3-pointer just before the buzzer.
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