By JASON ELMQUIST
STILLWATER — The eighth-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys teed off on Utah Valley Tuesday in an outmatched early season game at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
The Cowboys, facing a Utah Valley team which played a home game Monday night and flew out of Salt Lake City at 4 a.m. and arrived in Stillwater six hours prior to the game, rode a hot shooting night — at least in the first half — to roll to a 93-40 victory to improve to 2-0 on the season.
“This was just one of those nights. We had been shooting a lot in practice,” OSU sophomore shooting guard Phil Forte said. “This is a talented team. We were hitting on all cylinders tonight and we’re really hard to stop. We’re moving the ball really well, getting in the lane, pitching out to different guys who can knock down shots. When we’re doing that, it makes the game a lot easier.”
It was much of the same for Oklahoma State, with potential NBA Draft Lottery pick Marcus Smart continuing to etch his name in the history books of Gallagher-Iba Arena. On Tuesday, Smart set a program record for steals in a game with nine — beating the previous record by one.
“Marcus is a guy that, defensively, is the best I’ve seen at reading plays and being able to anticipate where the next pass is going to be,” OSU coach Travis Ford said. “I think that out of his nine, three or four of them came out of understanding the scouting report and knowing where the next pass was going to go.”
Looking to make his decision to return to OSU for his sophomore season look like the right move, Smart scored 14 points in just 25 minutes of action. He also had four assists while turning the ball over just once.
Taking care of the ball was strength in the blowout victory that featured numerous highlight dunks by the Cowboys. Oklahoma State turned the ball over just seven times — while forcing 18 steals and the Wolverines to commit 23 turnovers.
Stevie Clark, who is expected to be Smart’s successor at the point but has been getting plenty of playing time alongside the unanimous preseason All-American, continued to show impressive signs from a true freshman among a seasoned veterans. The Douglass product dished out six assists, after dolling out eight in the season opener last week, and scored 16 points — making three of his four 3-point attempts.
“His 16 points, that comes easy for him. Even the passing comes easy,” Ford said. “He went out and scored 16 points and didn’t even try to score. He passed up several shots. I love his mindset. We don’t want that to change.”
But it wasn’t either of the point guards that paced the Pokes in scoring on this night.
Instead it was the hot hand of sophomore Phil Forte, who went 7 of 11 including 4 of 8 from 3-point range, to finish with a game-high 19 points — 13 of which came in the second half.
Oklahoma State will face another soft opponent Friday when Arkansas-Pine Bluff comes to Gallagher-Iba Arena, before the Cowboys face their first tough test of the season — a matchup with No. 13-ranked Memphis at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Gallagher-Iba Arena.
“Every time you walk on campus that’s what you hear students talking about (is the Memphis game),” Forte said. “But that’s kind of a trap game, we have a game in front of us that we have to take care of business first and once we get past Pine Bluff, we’ll look at Memphis.”