No. 13 Oklahoma State (22-7, 12-5): 76
Iowa State (20-10, 10-7): 87
IN A NUTSHELL:
It was senior night in Ames. The plan was to keep the crowd quiet, the Cyclones off the 3-point line, and carry that momentum to a victory. But that's not what happened. Iowa State hit three-straight 3s to open a 13-6 lead five minutes in. Travis Ford got a technical foul for arguing with an official. By the midway point, the Cyclones grew that lead to 24-15. Three minutes later it was 30-15. Marcus Smart kept it within reason, hitting key jumpers and free throws for a stretch. But ISU kept the pressure on, despite missing their last seven 3-point attempts of the half(finishing the half 3-11 3PT). Smart had 8 points, 2 assists and 4 rebounds. Markel Brown added 9 points and a pair of steals. The Cowboys found themselves down 39-29 at the break.
The Cyclones opened the half with a wide-open 3-point make. The OSU defense lacked energy and the offense couldn't find a sniff of rhythm. But behind Smart, Le'Bryan Nash and Markel Brown, the Cowboys crept back in. All three quickly reached double-digit scoring totals. The Cowboys turned up the energy and cut the lead to 6 points at the midway point. Crisp ball movement by ISU led to open looks, and OSU continued to show its frustration on defense. But Marcus Smart grabbed back-to-back steals, eventually leading to a Phil Forte jumper that cut the lead to 67-64 with 6 minutes left. It was back and forth until there was three minutes left, when the Cyclones boosted the lead back to 10, courtesy of an 8-0 run. The Cowboys kept the pressure on, but they could never recover from that big first half deficit. OSU breaks its five-game road winning streak and ISU boosts its tournament resume – 87-76.
BY THE NUMBERS:
0: OSU fastbreak points in the first half.
4: Big 12 road losses for OSU this regular season.
15: Point deficit for OSU in the first half – the largest of the season.
19: Marcus Smart's age – his birthday was Wednesday.
90: Percent free-throw shooting for the Cowboys – with Nash, Forte and Brown going a combined 11-11 from the stripe.
OSU MVP: Marcus Smart
It's amazing how much better Smart gets as the game progresses. After a sloppy first half with a plethora of missed jumpers, Smart was efficient and determined in the second half. He finished with 24 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 5 steals. He was the spark that carried the Cowboys after the break, cutting the lead to three points. His consistency is what's given OSU its edge this season. That was evident on Wednesday night.
ISU MVP: Will Clyburn
It was a special senior night for Will Clyburn at the Hilton Coliseum. He was the game's most efficient and effective player scoring 20 points on 7-10 shooting (2-4 3PT). On a team filled with guards who love to shoot the 3-ball, he shined on Wednesday night. If the Cyclones get hot from behind the arc in the Big 12 Tournament, watch out. They could be dangerous.
Head coach Travis Ford: "We were a step slow defensively. We just kept getting beat off the dribble and giving up way too many easy layups. On our first couple possessions, we were scoring. We were moving the ball. Then we got back to just dribbling the ball around rather than moving the ball and using screens to score. I just thought that we were a step slow on everything we did tonight."
Marcus Smart: "We didn't play our best ball. We weren't hitting shots that we normally hit. We weren't playing the offensive and defensive end like we usually do. It was definitely sluggish for us."
UP NEXT: Kansas State
The Cowboys host Kansas State (25-5, 14-3) at 12:30 p.m. Saturday in Gallagher-Iba Arena / TV: Big 12 Network / RADIO: KSPI 93.7 FM