Oklahoma State vs St. Joe’s was one of the most memorable games from the 2004 NCAA Tournament and one of the defining games in both programs’ histories.
No. 1 seed St. Joe’s entered the final of the East Rutherford Region with a 30-1 season record, its only blemish coming versus Xavier in the A-10 Tournament Final. The Hawks walked through No. 16 seed Liberty in the first round, 82-63, then got by No. 8 seed Texas Tech in their second game, 70-65, to reach the team’s first Sweet 16 in seven years. An 84-80 victory over No. 4 seed Wake Forest in the regional semifinals sent St. Joe’s to just its third-ever Elite Eight and first since 1981.
Oklahoma State was riding a nine-game winning streak heading into the Elite Eight that dated back to late February. The Cowboys were Big 12 regular season and Big 12 Tournament champions, enough to catapult them into a No. 2 seed. In the first round, Oklahoma State handled No. 15 seed Eastern Washington, 75-56, before dismantling No. 7 seed Memphis in the next round, 70-53. In the Sweet 16, Oklahoma State again conquered in double digits, dispatching No. 3 seed Pittsburgh, 63-51, to earn the program its third Elite Eight trip in nine years.
It had been a much longer wait for St. Joe’s to reach Final Four than Oklahoma State, with the Hawks falling short of the national semifinals every year after 1961. For the Cowboys, the Final Four was more familiar territory, with their most recent appearance coming in 1995. But that was Oklahoma State’s first since 1951, and the desperation from both programs to climb back into the elite tier of the sport was palpable.
The game would come down to the final handful of seconds, creating an unforgettable moment for both programs that lives on in ecstasy or despair depending on your vantage point. The game also featured some serious players – St. Joe’s boasted the likes of Jameer Nelson, Delonte West, Dwayne Jones and more, while Oklahoma State had Tony Allen, Joey Graham, John Lucas and then some – and provided viewers with looks at many soon-to-be NBA ballers. Not to mention Eddie Sutton and Phil Martelli manning the sidelines.
Enjoy this 2004 classic: Oklahoma State vs St. Joe’s.