Marcus Smart's career night paces Oklahoma State over Memphis
STILLWATER, Okla. (AP)
Oh sure, Marcus Smart definitely noticed Kevin Durant sitting courtside in Gallagher-Iba Arena. And he put together quite a performance for one of the NBA's most gifted scorers.
Durant was one of many basketball fans across the country interested to see Smart's return to the national stage after he bypassed the NBA draft following the Cowboys' early exit from last season's NCAA tournament.
Smart responded by scoring 26 points in the first half. He finished 11 of 21 from the floor and hit five 3-pointers while easily passing his previous career high of 28 points set last season against Oklahoma.
''We saw Kevin Durant, and we just wanted to go out there and put on a show,'' Smart said.
Nick King had 23 points for Memphis, and Shaq Goodwin finished with 13. The Tigers (1-1) shot 41.2 percent (28 of 68), including a combined 2-of-20 performance from guards Michael Dixon Jr. and Geron Johnson.
The Tigers had played just once before the trip to Stillwater, a 95-69 home win over Austin Peay. And they appeared to be ill prepared for their first hostile road environment.
More specifically, they weren't prepared for Smart, who added five steals, four rebounds, four assists and a pair of blocks in an outstanding all-around performance.
''Oklahoma State was just the better team tonight,'' Dixon Jr. said. ''Our apologies for not playing Memphis basketball; we just couldn't make shots.''
Surprisingly, Smart didn't even enter the game as the leading scorer for the Cowboys.
In fact, the sophomore was third on Oklahoma State — behind sixth-man Phil Forte and Brown — with an average of 13.7 points through the team's opening three blowout victories.
Smart, however, played up to the competition in the Cowboys' return to the national spotlight after last season's crushing loss against Oregon in the NCAA tournament.
''We just wanted to show everybody that we weren't backing down, and that's what we did tonight,'' Smart said.
In front of Durant, a host of NBA scouts and Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks, Smart scored 12 of the Cowboys' first 14 points. His last basket during the opening stretch was a dunk on the break that put Oklahoma State ahead 14-7.
The Tigers did their best to stay close, rallying to tie it at 16 after back-to-back baskets by King, but they had no answer for Smart in the first half.
''Oklahoma State, they just kicked our butt,'' Memphis coach Josh Pastner said.
''When (Smart) scores like that, he could be the best player in college basketball.''
With the Cowboys up 17-16, the 6-foot-4 guard went on a one-man scoring binge that worked the crowd into a frenzy.
Smart scored the next 12 points for Oklahoma State — including three 3-pointers and a trio of free throws after he was fouled on a 3-point attempt — to put the Cowboys up 29-20. In all, he scored 24 of Oklahoma State's first 29 points.
''That's just Marcus,'' Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said. ''He's going to be ready when he needs to be ready. . . . I knew he was going to be ready to play, I knew that from the beginning.
''I didn't know he was going to go out there and get 39. That's not always what we need from him, but we'll take it.''
The Cowboys led 50-32 at halftime and stretched their lead to as many as 34 points in the second half — comfortably answering their first challenge of the season and reminding the country why Smart was a consensus preseason All-American.
Smart's fifth 3-pointer lifted Oklahoma State to a 64-43 advantage, giving him a career-best 31 points.
''I was just feeling it tonight,'' Smart said. ''My teammates found me and gave me the ball at times when I needed it in order to get my shot off.''