SYRACUSE, New York (Ticker) -- Seton Hall ran out of heroes and time.
The NCAA Tournament's most stirring story came to an end as the undermanned but gritty Pirates hung tough before Joe Adkins and Oklahoma State barely put them away late, pulling out a 68-66 victory in the East Region semifinals at the Carrier Dome.
Without their starting point guard, Shaheen Holloway, and with three of their regulars, Rimas Kaukenas, Darius Lane and Greg Morton, noticeably hobbled by injuries throughout, the Pirates hung tough and forged a 53-53 tie on Ty Shine's 3-pointer with 8:06 to play.
But Adkins, a senior guard, did not want his final game to be a part of Seton Hall's fairytale. The 6-1, 190-pounder answered Shine's long-distance shot with an acrobatic layup in the lane, drawing a foul and converting the ensuing free throw to put the Cowboys ahead to stay, 56-53, with 7:52 remaining.
Adkins made two free throws on Oklahoma State's next trip, increasing the advantage to five points with 6:48 left.
But Seton Hall, which beat Oregon in the opening round on Holloway's coast-to-coast last second layup and somehow knocked off second-seeded Temple in overtime in the second round behind a career-best 26 points by Shine, would not go away.
Lane made a 17-footer and answered Fredrik Jonzen's follow dunk with a tip-in of his own, drawing the Pirates within 60-57 with 3:33 remaining. Seton Hall freshman Al Harris then made two free throws to cut the deficit to one before Brian Montanati's layup and two more free throws from Adkins stretched the lead to 64-59 with 29 seconds left.
Glendon Alexander made 3-of-4 free throws down the stretch, rendering Kaukenas' 22-footer with less than a second remaining virtually meaningless as the Cowboys squeezed their way into an "Elite Eight" matchup with Florida on Sunday. The Gators upset top-seeded Duke earlier tonight.
"It was a tremendous hard-fought game," Seton Hall coach Tommy Ammaker said. "(Oklahoma State) is a seasoned basketball team. They made key plays at crucial moments. It's never easy for a season to come to an end. But for our seniors, I'm proud of the year that we had." Desmond Mason scored 17 points and Jonzen and Montanati added 15 apiece for Oklahoma State, which used its senior experience to hold off the Pirates. Senior point guard Doug Gottlieb played a solid all-around game with 12 assists and seven rebounds.
"We only had six turnovers and coach would take that any night," said Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton, who is one win away from his third Final Four appearance. "We are happy to move on but we need to play better to get to Indianapolis." "I thought we had a couple of defensive breakdowns in the second half," Mason said. "We didn't play good defense, but we still came out with a win." Kaukenas scored 17 points, Lane 16 and Shine 11 for Seton Hall, which led 36-35 at the half after an apparent buzzer beater by Mason was disallowed.
"I don't think we were tired at all," Kaukenas said. "We wanted to win the game. We were in good shape." Holloway, who was unable to play after severely spraining his ankle in the first half against Temple, watched his teammates scratch and claw their way to a 47-40 rebounding advantage against the third-seeded Cowboys. By denying Oklahoma State second-shot opportunities, the Pirates were able to stay in contention all night.
Samuel Dalembert had six points and 10 rebounds and staked Seton Hall to a 9-5 lead by making a layup and a jumper on consecutive trips. Mason forged an 11-11 tie on two free throws before Jonzen's jumper and a 3-pointer by Alexander gave Oklahoma State a five-point lead with 11:52 left in the first half.
But Charles Manga came off the bench and knocked down a jumper, Kaukenas hit a layup, Kaukenas a 3-pointer and Shine's jumper capped a 9-2 spurt, putting Seton Hall in front, 20-18, with 8:12 remaining before intermission.
Alex Webber answered with a jumper for the Cowboys, forging one of the seven ties the contest would produce. Lane, who misfired on 2-of-18 3-pointers, made two baskets in the waning moments of the first half to give the Pirates a 36-33 lead. Jonzen's jumper got Oklahoma State within a point before the half came to a controversial end.
Mason dribbled to a spot on the floor approximately 40 feet from the basket and swished his shot after the buzzer sounded. But one of the clocks in the arena still showed two seconds remaining, while the clock above the backboard had expired. Referees waved off the basket and the Cowboys went into the locker room with a one-point deficit.
"One of our pluses is that coach (Sutton) doesn't get rattled," Gottlieb said. "Some coaches are uptight but coach relishes games like this. As long as he gets us to follow his lead, we'll be fine." Montanati made up for Mason's disallowed basket by opening the second half on fire. He hit two quick jumpers and dunked as Oklahoma State went up 41-36 just 55 seconds into the half.
Kaukenas made two free throws and Dalembert threw down a thunderous dunk to shave the lead down to one, setting the stage for a back and forth struggle that culminated in Shine's 26-footer that made it 53-53 with 8:06 left.
Seton Hall finished 7-of-34 from 3-point range and shot just 36 percent (25-of-69) from the field after setting an East Region record by drilling half of their 30 3-pointers against Temple on Sunday.
"It wasn't a good night for us from outside," Kaukenas said. "We had to drive to the basket and find our big men more. I blame myself. Give credit to Oklahoma State, they deserve to win the game." .