John Klein: Marcus Smart and OSU could use big win at Kansas
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Friday, February 01, 2013
2/01/13 at 7:10 AM
Go to John Klein's Blog Original Print Headline: Smart, OSU are in need of big win
STILLWATER - Iowa State has played two terrific games this season and lost both when freshmen came to the rescue.
Ben McLemore of Kansas hit a game-tying shot in regulation at Allen Fieldhouse as the Jayhawks beat the Cyclones in overtime.
Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart was the hero on Wednesday night as the Cowboys rallied past Iowa State at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
Oklahoma State goes to Kansas on Saturday as the Cowboys continue to look for a significant road victory that will put them comfortably in the NCAA Tournament picture.
But the reason OSU at Kansas is a must-watch is Smart and McLemore, two of the most dynamic players in college basketball.
Smart was at his best and showed why he might be the nation's most complete player in the victory over Iowa State.
"He's one of the best players in the country," said Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg. "He does everything for them."
Smart's line in the box score tells the story: 21 points (on 9-of-15 shooting), seven assists, six rebounds, four steals and just one turnover.
He also had buzzer-beater shots at halftime (a half-courter to trim ISU's lead to four) and with three seconds left to give OSU the 78-76 victory.
"That kid is a stud," said Hoiberg.
All of that was just enough to win what turned from a boring first half into a terrific second half.
"We took a great shot from a good team," said OSU coach Travis Ford. "They played terrific. They are a good basketball team. When they are shooting like that they are tough to beat.
"It was really good to see our team win a game like that."
Smart's heroics were enough to overcome Iowa State's 13 3-pointers (the Cyclones had 14 in their loss at Kansas).
"The kid made a helluva play at the end," said Hoiberg. "He's a great player."
That's what makes OSU's troubles so puzzling. The Cowboys are 14-5 (4-3 in the Big 12), but most have higher expectations for the team. However, after the trip to KU, the schedule lightens up for OSU (it will have already played at arguably the four toughest road places in the league - KU, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Baylor).
Smart is terrific, almost assuredly a one-and-done player if he chooses to jump to the NBA at the end of this season.
Plus the Cowboys have talent around him.
OSU was good enough to beat North Carolina State, one of the nation's top teams, on a neutral court early in the season.
The Cowboys have the kind of talent that makes one believe they could be a dangerous NCAA Tournament team. However, the way they have played leaves plenty of doubt about OSU's chances to make it.
"It is a very talented roster," said Hoiberg. "We knew that coming in."
That's the puzzling thing about Oklahoma State. It has enough players to be a threat to just about any team in the country.
Smart is as good as any player in the country. Phil Forte, on any other team, would be considered one of the top freshmen in the country.
"Those are two very good players," said Hoiberg.
Although Smart was the hero against the Cyclones, the comeback would not have been possible with Forte's two steals down the stretch. "It is not about his size," said Smart. "The guy is a competitor."
Forte has been terrific in the last two games, scoring 43 points combined against West Virginia and Iowa State. But when OSU needed to make a defensive stop or two in the final minutes against the Cyclones, Forte came up with the plays.
"Those two steals were huge," said Ford.
In addition to the freshmen, Le'Bryan Nash, when he is on like he was against Iowa State, is a fabulous scorer and one of the nation's top sophomores.
Plus, there are others like Markel Brown, who is capable of big offensive nights.
Yet, with all of that talent, OSU has gone through serious scoring droughts. The Cowboys have not played well on the road, especially in losses to Oklahoma and Baylor.
OSU has been close, but until Smart came to the rescue against Iowa State, it had struggled to win close games. Ford admitted that in three of OSU's five losses the Cowboys failed to make the plays to win at the end.
"It was good to see our team win a game like that," said Ford.
The Cowboys probably should have beaten Gonzaga and had a great chance to win on the road at Kansas State. If they had won those two games, the perception of OSU would be far different.
Still, as shown in the game against Iowa State, the Cowboys are more than capable.
Part of it might be youth, although that should no longer be an excuse. It is time for Oklahoma State to start to flourish.
Winning a game in such dramatic fashion, when the other team is playing at peak form, could be a season-changing moment.
"They were upset with themselves (during second-half timeout huddles)," said Ford. "When only the coach is upset, that's trouble."
OSU has a month remaining to step on the accelerator and make a late rush into the NCAA Tournament.
With Smart at the wheel, steering the Cowboys, they look very capable of that sort of push.