March 4, 2000

STILLWATER, Okla. - Oklahoma made for a rude guest at Oklahoma State's farewell party.

The No. 21 Sooners got a season-high 21 points from Nolan Johnson and overcame a 13-point second-half deficit to beat the 13th-ranked Cowboys 59-56 on Saturday night.

It was the final game for Oklahoma State's six senior regulars, and the last game in Gallagher-Iba Arena before the 62-year-old building is expanded. Yet the Sooners came through to end OSU's streak of 16 straight home victories dating to last season.

"Our program is built on toughness, and I thought that that was what this game was about," Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson said. "We really had a solid game plan. We knew what we wanted to do."

Johnson, a junior college transfer, scored 12 points in a 23-6 run that allowed Oklahoma (24-5, 12-4 Big 12) to overcome a 46-33 deficit. He also put the clamps on Desmond Mason, who failed to make a field goal and finished with just six points, 12 below his average.

"I wanted to limit his touches or make him take tough shots," Johnson said. "I did what was asked of me tonight - play defense and make shots when I was asked to."

Oklahoma's top two scorers, Eduardo Najera (18.9) and J.R. Raymond (14.9) scored just nine and two, respectively. But Johnson came through in the clutch, as did freshman Kelley Newton and freshman Hollis Price.

An 11-0 Cowboys run made the score 46-33 with 11:44 remaining. Then Johnson converted two three-point plays to start the Oklahoma surge.

It was 50-49 before Oklahoma hit six straight shots and scored on seven consecutive trips to take the lead for good, 56-52. Newton had two 3-pointers, Johnson hit three baskets and Hollis Price scored five points.

"We just had too many defensive mistakes," OSU coach Eddie Sutton said. "They hit some big shots. Even when you make a defensive mistake, you still have to put the ball in the basket."

Adkins scored on a backdoor layup with 1:11 remaining to get the Cowboys within 58-56, but they didn't score again. Johnson made a free throw with 15.3 seconds remaining for a 59-56 lead, and Glendon Alexander's 3-point try with two seconds left bounced off the rim.

"It's the best win of my career," Najera said. "Tonight we showed we're a great team. I had an OK game, but everybody else stepped up. We've improved a lot and we're playing our best basketball right now."

The victory makes the Sooners the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament. Oklahoma State (23-5, 12-4) will be the fourth seed.

Mason wound up 0-of-8 from the field. Najera was 2-of-10 and didn't score in the final 18 1/2 minutes.

Brian Montonati had 15 points and Adkins scored 12 for the Cowboys.

Gallagher-Iba Arena, which opened in 1938, will be doubled in size to about 13,000 when it reopens in December.