The Cowboys All-American guard broke the single-game record for most steals in a game with nine while playing just 25 minutes. He had five steals at halftime as the Cowboys built a 50-25 lead and then tied the previous record of eight with 11:45 left in the game before coming up with No. 9 about 30 seconds later.
He breaks the record of eight which was held by former Cowboys standouts Desmond Mason (vs. Houston Baptist in 1998) and Brooks Thompson (vs. Colorado in 1993).
“Yes. the coaches just told me (about the record),” said Smart, who was reinserted into the game with 7:17 remaining on the clock although the Cowboys were up by 42 points. “I was trying to go for my 10th steal (which would have tied the Big 12 record held by Ivan Wagner of Texas). Unfortunately, I didn’t get it.”
But Smart was the only thief on the Cowboys roster Tuesday night against the Wolverines, who flew from Utah to Oklahoma on Tuesday after defeating North Carolina A&T 78-71 on their home court in Orem, Utah on Monday night. The eighth-ranked Cowboys, as a team, actually finished with more steals (18) than the Wolverines had field goals (14).
The 18 steals by OSU tied for third-most in a single game in school history and was one shy of the school record set vs. UMKC on Dec. 19, 1988, and matched against Mercer on Dec. 17, 2008.
“We talked a lot the last couple of days about being aggressive,” said OSU head coach Travis Ford. “We didn’t talk about going out and stealing the ball but we did talk about talk a lot about being aggressive.
“A lot of the steals came out of us not gambling, which we have had a tendency to do in practice and the exhibition games. We kind of let the defense create our steals, our aggressiveness create the steals, and I like that.”
He also likes having Smart on his team, especially when he puts up a stat line that reads: 14 points, 9 steals, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block and 1 turnover in 25 minutes.
“Marcus is a guy who just defensively is the best I’ve seen as far as reading plays, reading and being able to anticipate where the next pass is going to be. I think probably out of his nine (steals), three or four of them came off just understanding the scouting report and knowing where the next pass was going to go. And then he’s just got very strong hands and just took it out of the guy’s hands,” Ford said.
Seven other Cowboys joined Smart with steals, although only Markel Brown and Brian Williams (with two each) had more than one.
But the Cowboys also played well offensively, especially in the first 15 minutes when they made nine of their 14 field goals, which is one shy of the school record. Behind Smart and Phil Forte, each of whom made three 3-pointers in the first half, the Cowboys made 10 treys in the first half.
“I don’t think we could have gotten off to a better start than we did,” said Ford. “We were passing and making shots. I thought the first 15 minutes of the first half kinda set the tone, and we got a big lead. I thought we just came out of the gates and played really well.”
Forte led all scorers with 19 points and was joined in double figures by Stevie Clark (16), Smart (14), Le’Bryan Nash (11), Brian Williams (10) and Markel Brown (10).
Clark, the freshman from Oklahoma City, was outstanding for the second game in a row. After opening his college career last Friday with eight points and eight assists against Mississippi Valley State, the 5-11 guard following it up with 16 points (3 of 4 from 3-point range), 6 assists, 5 rebounds and a steal in 21 minutes.
The Cowboys, now 2-0, are back in action Friday night when they host Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Gallagher-Iba Arena. Tip is scheduled for 7 p.m.