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The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Cezar Guerrero rescues OK State with six points in four seconds

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

Moments after Oklahoma State completed a stunning rally Wednesday night to secure a berth in the Preseason NIT semifinals, guard Cezar Guerrero entered the stands, donned an oversized orange foam cowboy hat and made a "pistols up" gesture.

The hand motion could not have been more fitting.

The only reason Oklahoma State eked out a come-from-behind 90-85 overtime victory over hard-luck Texas-San Antonio was because Guerrero shot them back into a game that at one point appeared lost. The freshman sank eight three-pointers and scored 29 points, none more memorable than his Reggie Miller-esque flurry in the final seconds of regulation.

Oklahoma State had trimmed a late 11-point deficit to six when Guerrero drove to the rim, drew contact and made a basket and a free throw with 12.2 seconds left to slice the margin in half. Then when the Cowboys' defensive pressure forced an errant Texas-San Antonio inbound pass, Guerrero pounced on the loose ball, took one dribble and buried a left-wing three-pointer with 8.8 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 77 and pave the way for his team to win in overtime.

"It's just an amazing feeling," Guerrero said by phone afterward. "I wanted to go to New York. That was a big goal for me. To be honest with you, that's a part of my bucket list to go to Madison Square Garden and play there. We accomplished it and now I'll be able to scratch it off." {YSP:MORE}

That it was Guerrero who propelled Oklahoma State to New York will probably come as a surprise to many because the Southern California native isn't even the Cowboys' most heralded freshman. Guerrero has been overshadowed by McDonald's All-American forward LeBryan Nash, who added 18 points and nine rebounds of his own Wednesday night.

Guerrero knew Wednesday would be an ideal time for a breakout performance when he entered the locker room before the game and saw guard Keiton Page putting his street clothes back on. Oklahoma State's sweet-shooting senior captain had to sit out with a toe injury, so the Cowboys needed someone to provide a spark in the backcourt in his place.

"I asked him, 'Are you playing?' and he shook his head no," Guerrero said. "I looked at him straight in the eye and said, 'I got you. I'm going to come through tonight.'"

One way Guerrero delivered on his promise was by keeping his teammates' spirits up even as Texas-San Antonio built a 71-60 lead in the final 2 1/2 minutes and orange-shirted fans began streaming for the exits. On the floor and in the huddle, he encouraged teammates not to give up and reminded them that the opportunity to play at Madison Square Garden was at stake.

Guerrero's eight points during overtime weren't quite as dramatic as his finishing flourish at the end of regulation but they were no less important. He rallied Oklahoma State from an 85-81 deficit, knocking down a pair of open threes after the defense collapsed down low and then taking a critical charge to prevent Texas-San Antonio from tying the score.

"I wanted to show everybody I'm somebody to be reckoned with," Guerrero said. "I'm a Mexican kid from Southern California who's ready to make a name for himself. I'm here on a mission to prove I can do it and nothing's impossible."

All anybody wanted to talk to Guerrero about after the game, of course, was the way he conjured memories of Miller scoring eight points in 8.9 seconds against the Knicks in the 1995 NBA playoffs to give Indiana an astonishing victory. Guerrero isn't old enough to have watched the sequence live, but he's seen the ESPN 30-for-30 documentary devoted to it.

"People said I did a Reggie Miller on them," Guerrero said, chuckling. "I just want to say I did the Cezar Guerrero on them."

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