3-11-07 Eric Babers felt the shots from Midwestern State and the local media the last few weeks.
Southeastern Oklahoma State then took the Mustangs' best shot in the opening half in Sunday night's NCAA Division II South Central Regional semifinal as Midwestern ran out to a nine-point halftime lead.
Then it happened.
"Sometimes it looks like we're afraid to go out and do the things we can do," Southeastern coach Tony Robinson said. "I think when we got behind, we lowered our ears a little bit and forgot everything and started playing. I've coached these guys for four years and watched them do a lot of amazing things."
Babers answered the question on who the best big man in the South Central Region is in resounding fashion.
He poured in a career-high 33 points, grabbed 16 rebounds, dished out seven assists and had five blocks to spearhead an 88-77 come-from-behind victory.
"The last few week's, they've talking about how they have the best big man in the nation," Babers said. "I think I've earned my respect. I'm not saying I'm the best, but I do have to get a little credit."
The Savage Storm (27-4) will battle Central Missouri Tuesday night for the right to represent the South Central Region in the NCAA Division II Elite Eight in Springfield, Mass. in two weeks. The Mules (29-3) defeated Northwest Missouri State 72-61 in the other South Central Regional semifinal on Sunday night.
Babers contained Midwestern State center Eric Dawson for much of the night as the 6-9 senior was limited to nine shots to finish with 16 points and 11 rebounds.
"The kid has just gotten better and better all year," Robinson said. "He's done a great job for us, but he'll tell you that he's got guys around h im that make him better because if they double him, then Stamp or Kyric will jump up and hit a 3 on you. He's a tremendous player."
But the Savage Storm once again had to fight off a sluggish start that allowed Midwestern State to build a 16-point first half lead.
"Sometimes it looks like we're afraid to go out and do the things we can do," Robinson said. "I told the guys to not be afraid to win the championship."
The Savage Storm whittled the Mustang advantage to 10 points before sustaining an 8-0 run keyed by consecutive 3-pointers by Jason Stampley and Josh Talley and when Babers converted a pair of free throws with 8:27 to go, Southeastern trailed 59-57.
Three minutes later, Stampley canned another trey from the wing to give Southeastern its first lead since it led 2-1 in the first minute of the contest.
The Savage Storm would build a 73-66 lead with 51 seconds to go, but allowed the Mustangs a look to tie the game a t the end of regulation after converting on just 1-of-6 free throws the rest of the way.
And Midwestern's Chad Rickett buried the chance - from 28 feet away at the buzzer to send the game to overtime tied at 74-74.
"I think they hit it, but I don't know if they wanted to go overtime," Robinson said. "I think we wore them down a little bit. After our guys missed some free throws, they were ready to make that up."
The Savage Storm responded by holding the Mustangs to 1-of-7 shooting in overtime to come away with its fourth double-figure overtime win of the season.
Southeastern hit 3-of-6 shots in the extra session, but more importantly knocked down 8-of-9 from the free-throw to finally seal the victory.
"I thought it was a real gallant effort for both teams," Robinson said. "I'm really proud of my guys to be down like that and be out of it and then battle back to lose it again. Then to have to go to overtime, mos t teams would have folded but they just kept fighting."