Oklahoma St.-South Florida Preview
South Florida saw what Marcus Smart did his last time out, just like the rest of the college basketball world did.
The difference for the Bulls is that they are tasked with trying to cool off the Oklahoma State star in his next game.
The No. 5 Cowboys go on the road for the first time Monday night as they face the Bulls in a matchup of 4-0 teams.
Smart's decision to return for his sophomore season rather than enter the NBA draft in June will no doubt cause problems for Oklahoma State's opponents. That was the case Tuesday when he scored a career-high 39 points in a 101-80 home rout of then-No. 11 Memphis in front of a crowd that included Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks.
"I was just feeling a good night, and my teammates gave me the ball when I needed it in order to get my shot off," said Smart, who made 11 of 21 shots from the field and 12 of 16 at the line. "Words can't even explain. I think this is my first 30-point game in my career, and it's amazing."
The performance didn't go unnoticed by South Florida, which knows what the priority is in its defensive game plan.
"We can't let Smart have 30," coach Stan Heath told the Bulls' official website. "We just have to slow them down defensively and we need to do it as a unit. It's not just going to be one guy; it's not going to be two guys."
Smart scored a game-high 15 points in a 61-49 win over the Bulls on Dec. 5, but he made only 2 of 6 3-pointers and was 4 of 11 overall. He's a much better perimeter shooter this season, as he made a career-high five 3-pointers against the Tigers and is shooting 38.5 percent from beyond the arc.
"That's one of the reasons I stayed (in school) was to keep going and work on my game from the arc, increase my shooting percentage so guys play me honest," Smart said. "They have to respect my jump shot and my drive, so it will make it easier for me to get into the lane a lot more and find my teammates."
One difference in this season's matchup is the Bulls' addition of Corey Allen Jr., averaging a team-high 16.5 points per game. Allen is also a solid defender who Heath says will likely start the game matched up with Smart, although he will have plenty of help.
"If we just have one guy guard him that guy is probably going to have a lot of fouls," Heath said. "It will be better to spread it around and guard him with different players in different ways."
The Cowboys are second in the nation with 102.0 points per game. Oklahoma State, though, is unsure of the status of top reserve Phil Forte, limited to four scoreless minutes Tuesday due to illness. He averaged 21.0 points and 70.4 percent shooting in the first three games.
Victor Rudd led the Bulls with 14 points in last season's meeting. He was held to a season-low seven in Friday's 72-63 win over Stetson, as Allen scored 19.
Oklahoma State is seeking a second straight 5-0 start. South Florida hasn't opened with five wins since 2001-02.