By Jason Elmquist
STILLWATER, Okla. —
When the game was on the line, and Bedlam bragging rights up for grabs, Oklahoma State’s pair of McDonald’s All-Americans delivered.
In possibly the biggest Bedlam battle of the last decade, Marcus Smart and Le’Bryan Nash came through in the clutch to deliver the Cowboys an 84-79 overtime victory over rival Oklahoma in front of a crowd of 13,611 at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
“I’m really proud of our basketball team. They’re making me greyer and greyer by the day, but very proud of them,” OSU coach Travis Ford said after OSU’s fourth victory by five points or less in the past six games. “As I told our team, the reason we’ve been able to win some of these games is we’ve got good kids and we’ve got kids that are very close — a very close-knit team that believes in each other.
“They enjoy winning. We don’t do it pretty all the time, we’ve won in a lot of different ways ... and today fell in the category of just playing with a lot of heart.”
For Smart, Saturday was a chance to avenge a poor performance against the Sooners in Norman a month ago.
In that road loss the freshman point guard found himself in foul trouble and never could get in a flow. Saturday, Smart scored a career-high and led all scorers with 28 points — thanks to going 11 for 14 from the free throw line and 3 for 4 from 3-point range.
“That game wasn’t a good game for me, I got into foul trouble early and the rest of the game I was frustrated and wasn’t able to be there for my team. I felt bad and that’s all I was thinking about this week was this game today and OU,” Smart said. “I just needed to come out and prove I was a better player, play right and I wasn’t going to let them frustrate me this time.”
As for the fellow former high school All-American, Nash took a half to finally get going, but did so at the right time for Oklahoma State (19-5, 9-3).
After scoring just 3 points in the first 20 minutes — largely due to playing just 9 minutes because of foul trouble — the sophomore from Dallas went on a tear after halftime, scoring 23 points in the final 25 minutes. He was also the catalyst in overtime, scoring 7 of the 11 points put up by OSU in the extra frame.
“I thought he was very aggressive around the rim,” Ford said. “... It’s just a mentality for him. He got in a little bit of foul trouble, but when LB is locked in, he’s not bad.”
Oklahoma State got double-digit scoring from junior guard Markel Brown, who put up 14 points despite a 5-for-13 shooting night — which included a 1-for-5 performance from behind the arc. Freshman guard Phil Forte also scored 10 points in the victory, which saw the sellout crowd storm the court.
“The crowd was huge, it made a difference for us. The crowd and the atmosphere was a difference maker for us — especially in a game like this where I didn’t think we were playing great,” Ford said. “You need that extra and they gave us that extra tonight. It was exciting.”
The Cowboys, riding a seven-game win streak, could use the same type of atmosphere Wednesday when No. 15-ranked Kansas comes to town for a game that will have Big 12 Conference title implications.
Tipoff against the Jayhawks will be 8 p.m. from Gallagher-Iba Arena.
“We gave the crowd a lot to look forward to, we’re on a nice win streak and we have a big game coming up this week against Kansas,” Brown said. “We can use their help any time of the day. We look forward to them being there.”