In doing so, he raised the roof that Eddie built. He raised Oklahoma State basketball back to where it once belonged.
At this point, OSU head coach Travis Ford is running out of superlatives when discussing his star freshman. Smart’s stat-line was once again phenomenal: 28 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals. But in the No. 17 Cowboys’ now seven-game win streak, those kind of numbers have become the norm.
Maybe that’s why 13,611 fans attended Saturday’s game. Maybe it’s why Smart’s teammates have rallied around the freshman, and played to their best abilities because of it. As Dave Hunziker said on his radio broadcast following the game, “Oklahoma State has found its basketball messiah, and his name is Marcus Smart.”
"He's pretty special," Ford said. "He does so many great things, but sometimes he does things that frustrate me, too. It's crazy. You've got to take all the great with the negatives, but he is a special player. He wants to win so bad, and that's usually where his mistakes come into play. You can live with that as a coach. I thought he played really well, and he made the other guys better too."
It was far from a one-man effort. The three man combination of Smart, Le’Bryan Nash and Markel Brown accounted for 68 of the Cowboys’ points. But in the final seconds of overtime, it was Smart who rose up to block Steven Pledger’s desperation 3-pointer to win the game.
When it mattered most, Smart was there to finish the Sooners off. His legend in Stillwater continues to grow.
"We played against a great OU team today,” Smart said. “They came in with a lot of confidence and they came in to try to win. They gave us all they had, but we just sustained it and we just came back out and let them know that we're at home and we can't afford this loss. We just kept fighting back."
No. 17 Oklahoma State (19-5, 9-3): 84
Oklahoma (16-8, 7-5): 79
In a nutshell:
Energy of the building translated into both teams’ play. Maybe too much. After a sloppy first few minutes, Smart hit back-to-back 3-pointers to get the Cowboys rolling early. Defensively, OSU held the Sooners to under 40 percent shooting. The Cowboys were up by 11. OU’s two leading scorers, Romero Osby and Steven Pledger were a combined 4-of-15 shooting. But the Sooner caught fire, while the Cowboys shot a dismal 1-for-12. OU finished on a 27-8 run, and led 35-27 at the break. Smart led the Cowboys in scoring with 9. Sam Grooms led OU with 8.
Pledger caught fire early, with 11 of his 18 points coming in the second half. The Sooners ran out to an 11-point lead. But Smart and Nash kept it close with a barrage of 3-pointers and drives into the lane. And by the midway point, OSU knotted the game on a pair of Nash free throws. OU’s Sam Grooms made unexpected scoring contributions (18 points) to vault the Sooners back ahead. But in the final minutes, the Cowboys made their push. A Smart and-one jumper (he missed the free throw) with 1:18 left tied it at 71. An Osby jumper gave OU the lead once again, but Smart hit two more free throws with 41 seconds left, to eventually send the game into overtime, 73-73.
Overtime was the Le’Bryan Nash show. He scored 7 of the Cowboys 11 points – with multiple dunks. OSU sealed the victory when Brown stole the ball from Grooms, passing it ahead to Cobbins for the layin. On the Sooners final offensive possession. Smart blocked a Steven Pledger 3-point attempt, resulting in a jump ball that went to the Cowboys. OSU won in dramatic fashion, 84-79.
By the numbers:
3: Blocks by Michael Cobbins.
40: Minutes played by Michael Cobbins and Marcus Smart.
68: Total points scored by Marcus Smart, Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash.
13,611: Attendance at Gallagher-Iba Arena – a sellout.
11: Highest lead each team held in the game (OSU with 11:50 in the 1st, OU with 17:31 in the 2nd).
Nash cleans up
Le'Bryan Nash had one of his best performances of the season on Saturday: 26 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists.
"I just tried to stay in the game and help this team win games," Nash said. "I try to contribute as much as I can and help win. That's the biggest thing for all of us is just to win. It doesn't matter if it's pretty as long as we win it."
Welcome back, Rowdy
It was flashback time in Gallagher-Iba Arena. The sellout crowd lived up to its potential.
"They (the crowd) gave us a lot of support, they helped us out a lot,” Markel Brown said. “When we got momentum, there were times when I couldn't hear myself. It was a big crowd and helped us out a lot and motivated me to play harder. I love playing in front of big crowds and I'm just trying to help this team win. If we win this next one, we should be No. 1 in the Big 12 and that would be pretty exciting."
An ode to Kurt Budke
Travis Ford sported an orange blazer for Saturday’s game, the same style the late Cowgirl basketball coach Kurt Budke wore for Bedlam games.
"I like it,” Markel Brown said. “I think since he's been wearing it, we've been winning. It represents a very respectable man here in Coach [Kurt] Budke, and I wish I could wear it out there on the court."
On to Kansas
The Cowboys get a rematch with Kansas on Wednesday. In their last meeting OSU took down the Jayhawks in a thriller at Allen Field House, 85-80.
"We're going to be ready,” Travis Ford said. “And make no mistake; Kansas is going to be ready. They're going to show video of us winning at their place and everything, but when it's all said and done, when that ball is thrown up, both teams have to play."
UP NEXT: Kansas
The Cowboys host the Jayhawks (20-4, 8-3) at 8:00 p.m. Wednesday in Gallagher-Iba Arena / TV: ESPN2 / RADIO: KSPI 93.7 FM