Smart, Brown, Nash lead potent OSU offense
No one reading this blog has forgotten what happened the last time Oklahoma State played at Kansas.
The Cowboys prevailed, 85-80, and Marcus Smart performed a backflip after OSU won at Allen Fieldhouse for the first time since 1989.
Saturday afternoon, No. 9 Oklahoma State (15-2 overall, 3-1 Big 12) will attempt to knock off No. 15 Kansas (12-4, 3-0) on its home floor again, rather than wait another 24 years.
Coach Travis Ford's Cowboys have won three straight games since falling, 74-71, at Kansas State, and the Jayhawks will be the fourth ranked team they've played this season. In the non-conference, OSU split two games with Memphis and beat Colorado.
Oklahoma State's strength of schedule (40th) isn't close to Kansas (1st), but the Cowboys lead the Big 12, as well as the nation, in scoring margin at plus-20.2 a game, and put up 84.8 points an outing, compared to 78.9 for KU.
Now it's time to meet the guys that make Oklahoma State explosive.
Marcus Smart, No. 33
6-4, 220, so. guard
A unanimous Associated Press pre-season All-American, Smart averages 17.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists, while shooting 46.3 percent from the field. And because he is stronger than most of the guards trying to check him, as well as some of the larger players who slide over to help, he gets to the foul line regularly. Smart has converted 87 of his 123 free throws — both team highs.
If you ever want a thorough scouting report video on an NBA prospect, look no farther than DraftExpress.com's YouTube channel.
There's a great one there on Smart (posted below). Ignore the stats, because the video was created in the off-season, but the highlights begin at the 1:50 mark and show off the beast of a point guard's wide array of skills, including a series of post-ups in which he shows better footwork than most big men in the country.
Or — if you prefer a (relatively) more condensed Smart highlight reel — watch him torch Memphis for a career high 39 points earlier this season.
Smart opened his barrage with a filthy spin move in transition, before offering up a step-back three, a post-up in the paint, a fast-break throw-down and a dunk via alley-oop, to name a few of his most impressive offensive plays.
Basically, Smart does everything the Cowboys need him to do, as you can read in a John Helsley piece for NewsOK.com, which came in the wake of Smart's 22-point, 13-rebound, five-assist night at West Virginia on Jan. 11:
The best way he can make the Cowboys better right now is by being the best player on the floor, which he's doing, with an added bonus of playing big, not just figuratively but literally. Against Texas, Smart posted a staggering stat line: 24 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, six steals and a blocked shot. And zero turnovers. At West Virginia, it was more of the same. Smart scored seven of OSU's final 15 points and either scored or assisted on his team's final four buckets.
Smart plays with the strength of a power forward, the mentality of a sniper and is built sturdier than a number of NBA point guards.
Markel Brown, No. 22
6-3, 190, sr. guard
Brown brings nearly as much offensive punch as Smart, adding 16.6 points, while pulling down 5.2 boards a game and dishing out 2.9 assists.
The OSU veteran scores efficiently, too, hitting 50 percent of his shots (93 of 186) and 79.2 percent of his free throws.
He's the Cowboys' third-best option from long range, as well. Brown drilled a three that held up as the game-winner when Oklahoma State's trip to West Virginia came down to the wire.
As if that weren't enough, the guy can sky. Known for putting on slam dunk shows, Brown compiled a list of his top 10 dunks for NewsOK.com.
His No. 1 favorite came a couple years ago against Missouri — remember those guys? — and Brown actually earned a technical on the play, his second of that game, which led to his ejection. Apparently it was too nasty to drop on the list, despite the repercussion.
NewsOK.com dubbed Brown: "mayor of LobStilly."
Here's what the living myth of a dunk artist had to say about his vertical ferociousness:
“When I do one of those dunks, immediately I get tweets saying, ‘Markel's going to be on SportsCenter.' Things like that. I like doing those type of dunks. It's exciting. It gets the crowd pumped up. It gets my teammates some hype."
Le'Bryan Nash, No. 2
6-7, 235, jr. wing
Nash has the potential to play just as lethal a brand of basketball as Smart and Brown. But he still hasn't found that consistency that would make Oklahoma State even more trouble for its opponents.
Nash averages 13.5 points and 5.9 rebounds this season and has made 52.3 percent of his shots, but check out his scoring totals from his previous five games: nine vs. Robert Morris, 20 at Kansas State, 2 vs. Texas, 18 at West Virginia and 13 vs. TCU.
Like Smart and Brown, Nash is at his best when he's attacking, and he gets to the foul line, where he is a 70.5-percent shooter, averaging 5.6 freebie attempts a game.
Brian Williams, No. 4
6-5, 210, jr. wing
The most likely player to score outside of Oklahoma State's top four (the Cowboys' fourth-best offensive option comes off the bench, and we'll get to him in a moment). Williams averages 8.4 points and isn't great at any one thing, outside of scoring efficiently.
Williams has only hoisted 10 three-pointers, so much of his job duties come near or in the paint. He has made 52 of 93 shots and 36 of 47 free throws.
Plus, ball-handlers beware: Williams has swiped at least two steals seven times this season.
Kamari Murphy, No. 21
6-8, 220, so. post
When he gets a touch in the paint, odds are the ball is going through the hoop. Murphy has made 60 percent of his field goals this season.
He has only started four games to date, but Murphy has made 39 of his 65 shot attempts, and averages 5.9 points and 5.9 rebounds (tied with Nash for the team lead).
The young big man gets a lot of those when the Cowboys have the ball, and Murphy leads OSU with 32 offensive boards this season.
If there is a situation late in the game in which Kansas needs to foul someone from OSU, Bill Self and his staff will target Murphy if he's on the floor. While a nice role player, his one problem area is the free-throw stripe, where he has missed more than he has made: 16-for-35 (45.7 percent).
His 23 blocked shots are a team best.
Phil Forte, No. 13
5-11, 185, so. guard
The deadeye shooter's 46 three-pointers and 47.9-percent accuracy from deep lead the Cowboys.
Forte hops off the bench and starts killing his opponents from deep, averaging 12.0 points and 2.7 made threes a game.
Plus, when he goes to the foul line, he's the best in the Big 12, at 90.2 percent.
Stevie Clark, No. 5
5-11, 175, fr. guard
A lot of times this season, Clark has been the guy leading off an OSU highlight on SportsCenter. He's the one placing the ball perfectly near the rim for Brown or Smart to flush.
Clark averages 3.3 assists a game, with a 2.1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
He only scores 6.0 points a game, has hit 16 of 36 from three-point land, and only attempted 13 shots inside the arc, making three of those (23 percent).