OSU'S SWEDE TAKES LIKING TO BUFFALO CHILL
While admitting that living in Stillwater, Okla., has been a bit of a culture shock, Oklahoma State center Fredrik Jonzen said coming to Buffalo for the NCAA Tournament made him feel right at home.
That's because it was cold, just like it is in Uppsala, Sweden.
The 6-foot-10 sophomore also found a comfort zone on the basketball court here this weekend.
With the careers of Oklahoma State's four senior starters hanging in the balance, Jonzen poured in a career-high 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds as the Cowboys held off upstart Pepperdine, 75-67, in Sunday's opening East Region second-round game at HSBC Arena.
Oklahoma State (26-6), second-round losers the last two years, will play in the Sweet 16 for the first time since its 1995 Final Four season when it meets Seton Hall on Friday night in Syracuse.
Jonzen had 12 points and six rebounds in the first half as Oklahoma State took a 35-31 lead. In the second half, he played strong interior defense for the final 10 minutes to contribute to a decisive 18-4 run.
Until that burst, neither team led by more than five points for the first 31 minutes.
"I have to step up, too," Jonzen said. "Not just for the seniors, but for myself. You don't know what will happen. It might be my last chance. I can't think about making mistakes. I just have to keep playing hard."
Jonzen has done that with regularity of late, averaging 14.3 points and 12.5 rebounds over his last four games. He's averaging 8.9 points and 7 rebounds for the season. He had 13 points and 11 rebounds in Friday's 86-66 win over Hofstra.
"He's playing as a man," said Cowboys guard Joe Adkins. "And that's the kind of player we've hoped he'd be all season. It took him a little bit longer to figure out he could be that type of player."
Jonzen averaged just 2.3 points and 2.7 rebounds last season but quickly blossomed this year to earn a spot on the Big 12 All-Improved team.
"I'm so much more comfortable," Jonzen said. "I know what to expect this year. I've really come to love Stillwater even though it's not Sweden and it's very different."
The third-seeded Cowboys survived against a very different kind of opponent. No. 11 Pepperdine (25-9) tried to ballhawk around the court as it did in Friday's 77-57 rout of Indiana.
The problem was that the Waves struggled with their outside shooting and didn't have enough energy to sustain their pressing defense in the second half.
The Waves didn't get back to the Airport Holiday Inn in Cheektowaga until about 1:30 a.m. Saturday after Friday's win. Playing a 12:10 p.m. tipoff on Sunday was not conducive to 40 minutes of their frenetic style.
Want a classic sign of fatigue? Pepperdine hit 9 of 17 three-pointers Friday but just 7 of 32 Sunday -- missing 15 in a row over a 23-minute stretch spanning both halves.
"I don't know if that (fatigue) had anything to do with it because it's part of the game," said Pepperdine coach Jan van Breda Kolff. "But it seemed we were more tired than they were."
Oklahoma State was bothered by the press as it committed turnovers on four of its first five possessions and had seven through eight minutes. But it made just eight more the rest of the game.
"If somebody is going to spread their defense 94 feet (the length of the court), you can't be content to just get the ball across the midcourt line," said coach Eddie Sutton. "Because once they sense that, they're going to turn up the juice. You have to attack the basket."
Oklahoma State hit 26 of 53 from the field -- 14 of 23 in the second half. The Cowboys were 7 of 14 from three-point range in the game.
"There's tremendous gaps in the defense and that allows for great passing lanes," said Cowboys point guard Doug Gottlieb, who dished out nine assists. "If we just moved the ball and were patient, we got all the shots we wanted to."
It was Pepperdine that was getting the ball inside at will early in the second half as 6-11 center Nick Sheppard scored nine of his 13 points in the first 5 1/2 minutes.
A Sheppard jumper from the lane with 14:39 to play gave Pepperdine a 44-42 lead, its last of the afternoon.
Oklahoma State then turned up its own defensive heat, especially on the perimeter, and went on its game-turning run. Adkins had seven of the points and Jonzen chipped in six.
Pepperdine missed 10 of its next 12 shots and Jonzen worked inside for a pair of layups to put Oklahoma State in charge. When Adkins hit a three-pointer from the left corner with 5:34 left, the Cowboys had a 60-48 lead.
His trey from the right corner, right in front of the Cowboys bench, made it 65-50 with 3:21 to go.
"Sometimes when I shoot jump shots, I can get silly," said a smiling Adkins, who had 18 points and hit 4 of 6 three-pointers. "It really felt good when it left my hand and I just told the bench that 'It's OK. It's going to go in.'"
Pepperdine hit a trio of three-pointers in a 46-second span and twice was within five in the final minute. But Gottlieb and Adkins scored the game's final three points at the line to prevent any miracles.
Guard Brandon Armstrong led Pepperdine with 19 points. Point guard Tezale Archie dished out a career-high 14 assists.