Just one game. But finally, a game that counts. And it’s easy to see why Travis Ford – and his collection of players surrounding perhaps the NCAA’s top player Marcus Smart – seem giddy about getting in the saddle to start the season.
Junior Le’Bryan Nash (21 pts, 10 reb) earned his first double-double and as it turned out the 6th ranked Oklahoma State University Cowboys didn’t even need the sophomore Smart (11 pts, 4 reb, 3 ast, 19 mp), racking up their highest scoring game since January 3, 2009, crushing Mississippi Valley State 117-62. The 55 point margin of victory was the 10th largest in OSU history.
Granted, Mississippi Valley’s program is in a dismal state, but what should be promising for Cowboys fans – and should get the attention of those around the nation – is the way these guys smelled blood and didn’t lose focus, something OSU teams might have done in the past once the blowout was a foregone conclusion.It was the type of effort Travis Ford is expecting out of this team.
It is as if there is a realization in the air that the stars are aligning for the Pokes. First, Smart didn’t opt for the NBA draft after his sophomore season, despite the possibility he might have been a lottery pick. Second, the arrival of one of Oklahoma’s most exciting prep recruits to complement the returnees, has already turned up the fun meter a notch.
Stevie Clark, the highly touted scorer out of Oklahoma City’s Douglass High School, had more assists than the entire Mississppi Valley team (8), scoring 8 points with 2 steals in 23 Division I minutes, impressing this game’s leading scorer, sophomore guard Phil Forte (22 pts, 6-9 FG, 4-7 3 pt) a sharpshooter in his own right.
This was not a game where the superior team ran up the score. Everybody who was healthy played, and Smart sat early inthe first half ,after picking up a couple of quick fouls. In a sense, that foul trouble was a blessing for the other veterans like Nash, Brian Williams (14 pts, 7 reb) and Markel Brown (14 pts, 4 assists before fouilng out), playing with confidence and energy to build an impressive 63-29 halftime lead. After struggling relatively from the floor during their two exhibition games, the Cowboys outside shooting was consistently good (60 % in the first half, 62.5 second) and they hit 12 of 21 3-point attempts as well.
OSU opens with four games at home before entering the holiday tournament season, hosting Utah Valley State and Arkansas-Pine Bluff before Memphis comes to Stillwater on the 15th of November.