UNLV isn’t the only Top 25 outsider flirting with a spot in the next poll Monday.
Oklahoma State made a strong case for inclusion with a 77-55 blowout over Utah to win the Las Vegas Invitational on Saturday at the Orleans Arena.
The Cowboys (6-0) were near flawless, committing only four turnovers and holding the Utes (3-3) to 33 percent shooting.
“We’ve been playing in spurts a lot coming in here,” Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said. “Tonight we were able to sustain our focus and our energy.”
The Cowboys took control early, scoring 17 straight points for a 19-9 lead. They were patient and under control offensively and sharp defensively, rotating well to help inside against Utah’s big men.
The Utes were behind 44-26 at halftime and there would be no comeback, unlike Friday’s victory against Illinois in which they rallied from 16 down. This time, following a 7-for-22 first half, Utah didn’t make its next basket until Chris Hines’ 3-pointer with 12:24 remaining. Oklahoma State’s lead reached as high as 24.
“I was very pleased we didn’t let a team that knows how to come back get back in the game,” Ford said.
Oklahoma State was led by James Anderson, the tournament Most Valuable Player, with 26 points, five assists and three steals. Obi Mouonelo scored 17 and Marshall Moses 12. Jay Watkins had 14 points and nine rebounds off the bench to lead Utah (4-3).
“We can’t let this success get to our heads,” Anderson said. “We still have a lot to learn. But it’s great to win a tournament like this, and it would be nice to get ranked. That’s something we’re working towards and it would be big for us.”
In the third-place game, No. 20 Illinois (4-2) was upset for the second time in two days. Andrew Warren’s go-ahead 3-pointer with 36 seconds to play was the key basket as Bradley (4-2) gained a 72-68 victory.
“It’s disappointing. It’s a learning experience,” Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. “We found out it’s not as easy as you think. Now we just have to grow up.”
In Saturday’s other games, Wofford overcame 41 points by Seattle’s Charles Garcia to win 84-83; and Presbyterian got its first victory, edging winless Southern, 71-69.OKLAHOMA STATE — 77
UTAH — 55
KEY: The Cowboys went on a 17-0 run to take a 19-9 lead.