John Klein: Oklahoma State poised for postseason run
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Sunday, March 10, 2013
3/10/13 at 7:39 AM
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STILLWATER - Oklahoma State opened and closed the Big 12 Conference with Kansas State.
There is a big difference between the Cowboys back on Jan. 5 and on Saturday.
"Just look at how young Oklahoma State is," said K-State coach Bruce Weber. "People forget how young they are.
"That's a team very capable of making a run (in the NCAA Tournament)."
Marcus Smart made a couple of game-changing plays and Le'Bryan Nash continued to play at a high level as OSU closed the season with a convincing 76-70 victory over ninth-ranked K-State on Saturday at a packed and loud Gallagher-Iba Arena.
The Wildcats (25-6) were playing for a share of the Big 12 Conference title.
"That was a high-level game," said OSU coach Travis Ford. "You saw two teams that really wanted to win and played well.
"I think we're playing well. We've won a lot of games lately."
The Cowboys (23-7) were playing for position in the NCAA Tournament bracket and a No. 3 seed in the Big 12 Tournament.
OSU, ranked 13th, has been on fire down the stretch of the Big 12 season. Since Jan. 26, OSU is 11-2 and one of those losses was in double overtime to Kansas, a team projected by most to be a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
"They (Cowboys) are a very good team," Weber said. "They are a very talented team.
"They are very good athletes. They can really guard and defend."
Once again, Smart, projected by many to be a top pick in the NBA draft, was fabulous. He made a series of defensive stops, got a critical charge call and knocked home big shots to start OSU's late-game rally. He finished with 21 points, six rebounds, six assists, two steals and just three turnovers.
It was just another day at the office for the Big 12's best overall player. No one in the league, and perhaps few in the country, have a bigger impact in so many different ways.
"He is really good," Weber said.
"He's always involved in lots of plays," Ford said.
Nash, who has been super in recent weeks, was once again virtually unstoppable in the paint. His improved play has made OSU a dangerous team heading into the tournaments. He scored 24 points against KSU (10-of-12), mostly down low near the bucket, and the Cats seemed defenseless to stop him.
"He's playing good basketball," Ford said. "We hope he continues to play that well."
If Nash continues to play at this level, the upside for Oklahoma State is pretty high.
"If we continue to play like this, we've got a chance to win some more games," Ford said.
This was a struggle against the Wildcats, who figure to be a high seed in the NCAA Tournament.
However, the Cowboys are no longer the youngsters from earlier in the year. OSU has been hardened and are far more poised and confident down the stretch of tough games.
"We have a lot of scorers on this team," Nash said. "It can be anybody on any night."
Kansas State led by nine early in the second half. The Wildcats had the lead, momentum and experience. There was every reason to believe they might pull off a road victory.
"They are 25-6 for a reason," Ford said. "They are really good. They have guys who have been in this position. They are an experienced, good team."
However, O-State has been in so many tight games this season that the Cowboys seem to thrive in that tense environment.
"Our team has had some very good moments this season," Ford said.
There is likely to be more good moments left in this season. O-State is playing well.
Smart continues to play at a high level. Nash has become a serious scoring threat. The Cowboys have others capable of big nights.
In other words, OSU is, as Weber said, a far different team these days than it was way back at the start of January.
This is a team that has played evenly matched games with two teams that are likely No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. OSU won at Kansas, lost in double OT to KU and lost in the final seconds to Gonzaga.
And, OSU has been on a serious upswing in recent weeks.
Still, the Cowboys have their ups and downs with their youth. OSU had chances to get away from K-State but started slowly in the second half and got in a big hole.
That's when OSU's talent took over.
The Cowboys that played the final 10 minutes against Kansas State are the ones that should be considered a legit threat to make a big run in the NCAAs.
"We had to play well in this game," Ford said. "There was no other way to win it."
Original Print Headline: OSU poised for postseason run
Oklahoma State 76, Kansas State 70
Up next: Big 12 Tournament
At Kansas City, Mo.
Vs. Baylor 8:30 p.m. Thursday
TV: KMYT-10/41 Radio: KFAQ am1170
Kansas State coach Bruce Weber watches his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against North Florida in Manhattan, Kan. ORLIN WAGNER/AP Photo