Tahlequah Daily Press

November 20, 2013

No. 7 Cowboys pulverize Memphis

By JASON ELMQUIST
CNHI

— STILLWATER — In a game billed as a battle of two of the country’s best backcourts, Oklahoma State made its case — emphatically — as the best of the best.

Led by future NBA Draft Lottery pick Marcus Smart, who tied the program’s sophomore record for points in a game with 39, the seventh-ranked Cowboys laid down a blitzkrieg on No. 11 Memphis with a 101-80 blowout to send a statement to the Big 12 Conference — and the country — that these Cowboys are for real.

“I knew when I let go of my first shot and it went in with the foul, I knew I was going to have a good night,” Smart said. “I was just feeling a good night, and my teammates gave me the ball when I needed it in order to get my shot off. Words can’t even explain. I think this is my first 30-point game in my career, and it’s amazing.”

The sophomore point guard from Flower Mound, Texas, found the zone early for Oklahoma State, scoring 24 of the team’s first 29 points over the opening 11 minutes of play. Those 24 points were more than the Tigers had as a team, allowing OSU to surge to an early 35-20 lead.

With the Cowboys clinging to a large lead early, in walked somebody who will likely face off with Smart at the NBA level. Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star forward Kevin Durant arrived late in the first half to a chant of “K-D! K-D!” from the student section.

Smart said he questioned if it was truly Durant sitting courside — just a few seats down from his Thunder coach Scott Brooks. But once he knew it was the former University of Texas forward, who along with Smart is one of three players to earn Big 12 Conference Freshman and Player of the Year honors in the same season, Smart admitted to playing to the NBA all-star.

In fact, after knocking down a 3-pointer on a fastbreak in the second half, Smart even looked in the direction of Durant — who simply shook his head in amazement of the young phenom.

“I did, I’ll admit it. I hit it and kind of looked at him,” Smart said. “I just wanted to see if he was enjoying the show.”

Oklahoma State’s backcourt went bananas on the Tigers, doing so without the team’s leading scorer — sophomore guard Phil Forte. Smart’s high school teammate had battled illness the night before and still tried to come off the bench but played just four minutes before calling it a night.

His points weren’t necessarily needed, and not just because of the 74 combined points by Smart, Brown and Williams. The Cowboy backcourt held Memphis’ starting guards to a combined 15 points on a combined 5 of 26 shooting — including an 0 for 7 night from 3-point range.

“It was a big statement game. Our guards, we pride ourselves on our defense in the backcourt and stopping other guards,” Smart said.

While a lot attention will be laid upon Oklahoma State for it’s dismantling of a top 15 team, Cowboy coach Travis Ford stressed after the contest that this is simply Game 4 on their schedule — or for Memphis, only its second of the season.

“We need to be very humble and be looking forward to the next practice to get better — not thinking that we’ve done anything and are too good to practice,” Ford said. “Humility is the key word for our team. We just need to go out there and be humble and get better each and every day. We need to look at each game as a challenge and opportunity to get better because its a long season.”

Oklahoma State will get the chance to backup the impressive victory next week with a weeklong trip to Florida.

The Cowboys will take on South Florida at 6 p.m. Monday, before playing in the Old Spice Classic, a three-game tournament in Kissimmee, Fla., where they will start against Purdue on Nov. 28.