Oklahoma State loses Smart for a while, but wins

The SportsXchange

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Adversity seemed to be stacking up on Oklahoma State.

The Cowboys, however, keep revealing character, the latest example coming in a 73-57 romp on Saturday at West Virginia.

No. 14 Oklahoma State already faced issues, being on the road at West Virginia following an emotional and physical double-overtime loss to Kansas three days earlier.

Then it lost point guard and spiritual leader Marcus Smart to three fouls less than three minutes in.

But reinforcements were ready, Smart eventually returned to do his thing and the Cowboys improved to 20-6 overall and 10-4 in the Big 12 to keep their conference title hopes alive.

"It was like everything we did, was going toward West Virginia," said Smart, who picked up his third personal at the 2:34 mark. "Nothing was good for us. It definitely gave us a spark when I went to the bench, because it was like, you're taking a shot at one of our leaders, that means you're taking a shot at us.

"They knew they had to step up and they did. It was just an opportunity for some other guys to come out and showcase what they can do."

West Virginia fell to 13-14 and 6-8, shooting only 30.2 percent from the floor.

"You can't win many games not rebounding," Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins said. "You can't win many games throwing the ball to them. There is a myriad of things we could name that you can't win doing."

Five Oklahoma State players scored in double figures, with Markel Brown and Le'Bryan Nash at 16 each, Smart at 14, Brian Williams at 13 and Michael Cobbins at 10.

Williams, a projected starter who sustained a broken wrist right before the season started, was forced into his most extensive action and answered the call.

He hit 5-of-8 shots from the floor, including both of his 3-pointers, and added six rebounds in 22 minutes.

"I thought Brian probably played his best game this season," Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said. "He looked like he was back in his form, as far as making some tough shots."

Aaric Murray, who scored 11 points, and Matt Humphrey, who added 10, led the Mountaineers off the bench.

West Virginia's starters made only 10-of-32 shots from the floor and the Mountaineers committed 17 turnovers on a rough afternoon when Smart's foul trouble should have offered opportunity for a benchmark victory in what has been a rough first season in the Big 12.

"It doesn't seem like we compete as hard," Huggins said. "What makes this a hard game is you have to do the right thing all the time. When you are told 1,000 times to not overrun the ball and you overrun the ball and they make another pass and you overrun the ball again, they end up 5-on-3 and shoot a layup.

"They have been told."

Oklahoma State was ahead, 35-33, at halftime, but Smart's return sparked the Cowboys in the second half.

And it was a welcome finish, considering the stress of the previous week and four games during a recent seven-game winning streak decided on the final possession or in overtime.

"In some strange way, it almost made us refocus a little bit," Ford said of Smart's foul trouble. "Even before the game, I could tell we didn't have that energy we needed.

"Not that you ever want Marcus Smart to get in foul trouble, but I think it made everybody go, 'Uh oh, we all better raise our game.'"

Scoreless at intermission, after missing all but 2:23 of the game, Smart came back to go 4-of-8 from the floor and 6-of-7 from the line and add four assists, three steals and two rebounds.

"I just came out and played like I always play," Smart said. "I couldn't go back and change anything, so I came back and did what I could for my teammates."

The Cowboys gradually built their lead and eventually led by 18, benefiting from 52 percent shooting from the floor in the second half.

Missing their floor general and a major offensive contributor, the Cowboys looked elsewhere to fill in the gap, and they got it from several spots.

Nash had a game-high 10 points at intermission, while Brown added nine and Williams eight. Cobbins might have been the biggest factor, contributing on both ends of the floor with six points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots.

Initially, the Mountaineers made the most of Smart's absence, leading 7-2 and 12-5. Kevin Noreen and Murray each scored seven points in the opening 20 minutes to lead West Virginia.

The Cowboys rallied, owning as much as a seven-point advantage at 29-22, before West Virginia closed strong. A follow dunk from Murray at the buzzer made it a two-point game.

NOTES: Seven times this season Oklahoma State has played following a game Wednesday against an opponent who played Monday. This time, the Cowboys played on the road, on the heels of a combined three overtime periods over eight days. ... Travis Ford won his 100th game as Cowboys' coach, moving to 100-61. Ford is 223-176 overall as a head coach. ... West Virginia had been 128-32 against teams making their first trip to WVU Coliseum before Saturday. ... Oklahoma State won its fourth straight conference road game, the program's best road streak since 2004.
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