Liberty wasn’t an easy out.
But an all-around performance from Oklahoma State was enough to put away the Flames 69-60 on Friday evening in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
The victory is the Cowboys’ first in the big dance since 2009.
Through active hands and tenacious defense, OSU was able to get out in transition much more in the second half and Liberty couldn’t keep up.
The Flames cut the Cowboys’ lead to a single possession a couple times late, but OSU’s defense stepped up and got stops to stunt Liberty’s momentum.
The Cowboys forced 16 turnovers against a team that generally takes care of the ball well.
OSU was sloppy out of the gate, trailing for most of the first half. With Cade Cunningham struggling, a midrange clinic from Avery Anderson kept the Cowboys in the game.
Anderson finished with a game-high 21 points.
Cunningham picked up the aggressiveness in the second half, knocking down a couple huge pull-up 3-pointers to keep the Flames at bay. He ended with 15 points, 14 of which came after halftime.
Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe also played a key role, nearly notching a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds. Moncrieffe was able to take advantage of a smaller Liberty lineup to attack the basket.
Next up for the Cowboys: No. 12 Oregon State, who handled fifth-seeded Tennessee earlier in the day.