OSU rallies from way back

Saturday, December 22nd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) _ For Eddie Sutton and Nolan Richardson, there was plenty of irony to go around.

In Sutton's case, it was a numbers thing; for Richardson it was personnel and productivity.

Sutton, who put Arkansas on the basketball map before leaving for Kentucky, recorded his 261st victory at Oklahoma State when his Cowboys rallied from 22 points behind to beat Arkansas 85-76. He won 260 at Arkansas and is the first coach in history to win 250 games at two different Division I schools.

``It is ironic that this win put me one win over what I had here at the University of Arkansas,'' Sutton said.

For Richardson _ Sutton's successor at Arkansas _ the irony involves the supposed backbone of his 17th Razorback team. With five seniors returning, experience was billed as the strength that would help in difficult times. Instead, at least two of those seniors struggled against the sixth-ranked Cowboys _ a common theme for Teddy Gipson and T.J. Cleveland in Arkansas' losses to other nationally ranked teams.

Gipson, who started 22 games last year and was second on the team in shooting percentage with a .503 mark, played 10 minutes against OSU. He missed both of his shots from the field and scored one point.

Cleveland, third on the team in minutes played last year and the owner of an excellent assist-to-turnover ratio, played 18 minutes against OSU. He had four turnovers and missed all three of his field goal attempts.

``Guys like T.J. are having a tough time,'' Richardson said. ``His confidence is down and he's turning the ball over too much. Teddy is another guy who is not playing up to his potential.''

Against nationally ranked Wake Forest, Oklahoma and Illinois, Cleveland was 4-of-16 from the floor, including 2-of-10 from 3-point range, and Gipson was 4-of-15 with seven turnovers.

``I'm very disappointed in our bench,'' Richardson said.

On Saturday, the starters were 27-of-48 from the field, including 9-of-20 from 3-point range. The others were 1-of-13, 1-of-9 from long range. The only basket was by redshirt freshman Michael Jones. On top of that, Dionisio Gomez had to play a team-high 31 minutes because Arkansas' other inside players were unproductive.

Barely 11 minutes into the game, Arkansas (6-4) led 32-10 simply because OSU (12-0) could not handle the Razorback pressure.

However, the Cowboys did not panic and began to reduce the deficit.

``Coach told us that if we could just cut it to single digits by halftime ... we would have a great chance to win,'' said Victor Williams, who made 10 straight free throws down the stretch.

At the half, Arkansas led 43-36 after scoring 23 points off 20 OSU turnovers. In the second half, Arkansas scored seven points off nine turnovers.

``You feel like you've got a cushion where you can do anything and we got very soft on defense,'' said Arkansas' Brandon Dean. ``When the game started we were hardly allowing them to get across half court without some kind of pressure, but after that we let them dribble all the way inside.''

With lots of easy baskets off turnovers, Arkansas shot 53 percent in the first half. Without that luxury in the second half, the Razorbacks' shooting percentage dipped below 38.

Jannero Pargo made 5-of-6 shots in the first half, but Sutton put Melvin Sanders on him in the second half and Pargo was good on 3-of-9. His second-half baskets _ all 3s _ came in a 72-second span and gave the Razorbacks a 56-49 lead with 14:44 to play.

Williams' two free throws gave OSU its first lead, 75-74, with 2:19 to play. Prior to that, he twice converted a one-and-one for 69-67 and 71-69. In the final 42 seconds, he made two for 81-76 and two more for 83-76.

OSU made 29-of-41 free throws; Arkansas 10-of-18.