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Better Than Ever: Smart Steals Show As Pokes Roll Memphis

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STILLWATER, Oklahoma -

Marcus Smart has certainly earned his reputation as a big-game player and Tuesday night's matchup met the criteria.

OSU was hosting the highest-ranked nonconference foe to come to Stillwater since 1980 and it was the first matchup of Top 15 teams in Gallagher-Iba between non-league squads since the mid-50s.

It was another opportunity for the all-everything point guard to play at his best against the best on a national stage.

And once again, Smart was up to the task, but he set a new standard for himself against No. 11 Memphis.

The All-American was a one-man wrecking crew in the first half and scored a career-high 39 points to go with a jam-packed stat line, as No. 7 Oklahoma State blew Memphis out of the building in a 101-80 victory that wasn't nearly that close.

But as impressive as his 39-point line was – 11 points better than his previous career outing – it was his start to the game that people will be talking about for the foreseeable future.

One of Smart's main reasons for returning to Stillwater this season was to work on his shooting and his improvement was on full display against the Tigers, as Smart scored in about every way imaginable in the opening 20 minutes.

Smart scored 24 of the Cowboys' first 29 points, including four 3-pointers, a four-point play, a handful of layups and dunks, and capitalized on his free-throw opportunities. But his early explosion did more than put points on the board, it broke Memphis' confidence and everything snowballed on the Tigers from there.

The crowd was deafening and OSU's role players picked up the pace, as Oklahoma State tore apart the Tigers and outclassed them in every area.

The Cowboys (4-0) lead swelled to as much as 34 before Travis Ford called off the dogs in the second half.

But not to be lost in this victory was a completely dominating performance from the defense, particularly in the first half. OSU shut down a Memphis team that was touted as having the nation's best back court, holding them to 35 percent shooting, 16.7 percent from 3 and four assists against 10 turnovers in the opening half.

The Tigers finished with 41.2 percent shooting and were only outrebounded by three, but those numbers were skewed late once OSU hit cruise control.

Smart's 39-point outing came on 11-of-21 shooting, 5-of-10 from 3 and 12-of-16 from the foul line. And the physical point guard added four rebounds, four assists, five steals and two blocks to stuff the stat sheet.

Markel Brown was outstanding in his own right with 20 points and four assists, while Brian Williams added 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting with eight rebounds. Stevie Clark had an efficient night off the bench with nine points coming of 3-of-4 from 3-point range for an OSU team who was without leading scorer Phil Forte, who was suffering from food poisoning, as Oklahoma State made a case that the best backcourt in America was playing in Stillwater on Tuesday, it just wasn't Memphis.

Le'Bryan Nash had a rough shooting night for OSU with five points on 1-of-5 shooting but he pulled in 10 rebounds. Kamari Murphy also had a solid game on the glass with seven boards and five points in 18 minutes.

Nick King led Memphis (1-1) with 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting with eight boards, while Shaq Goodwin chipped in 13 points and seven rebounds.

The Cowboys were outscored 52-32 in the paint and Memphis held a 45-14 edge in bench scoring, but nothing was going to derail Smart and Co. in a packed house at GIA.

Oklahoma State is off for nearly a week before heading to Tampa to face South Florida at 6 p.m. next Monday.

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