Back On The Horse: Cowboys Take Down No. 5 Kansas - News9.com - Oklahoma City, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports |

Back On The Horse: Cowboys Take Down No. 5 Kansas

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STILLWATER, Oklahoma -

Oklahoma State entered Saturday's contest against Kansas in need of a statement to validate its recent resurgence.

Mission accomplished.

OSU's once-fading NCAA aspirations received a major boost with a 72-65 victory against the fifth-ranked Jayhawks, complete with a court storming and Marcus Smart flexing his muscles — literally.

Smart and the Cowboys didn't always make it look easy in Gallagher-Iba Arena, overcoming an abysmal 24 percent shooting clip in the first half, a double-digit second-half deficit and a decisive size disadvantage to earn a gutsy victory against the newly-crowned Big 12 champions.

But this group of Cowboys was resilient.

In fact, they were defiant, and no player displayed that attitude more than Smart.

Smart's first half on the offensive end, not unlike the rest of his team, was atrocious: one point, 0-7 shooting, bad shot selection and forced play after forced play.

But the Cowboys weren't about to give up their star, and neither was he.

"My teammates stayed in my ear and told me keep shooting, keep driving and to just do what I do," Smart said. "They told me let my defense create my offense, so that's what I was trying to do ... and I let my game come back to me in the second half."

Did he ever.

The All-American point guard dropped 20 points, four assists, three rebounds and two steals on the No. 5 team in the country in the second half alone, including two crucial takes to the basket in the final 47 seconds to seal the victory.

Both late baskets came over 7-foot phenom and potential No. 1 draft pick Joel Embiid, who had eight blocks against the Cowboys in Lawrence. The 6-foot-4 point guard went right at the nation's premier shot blocker with the game on the line ... and succeeded ... twice.

That was just a little of his defiance at work.

The pair of devil-may-care baskets reinforced the level of confidence Smart has in his ability, which can be infuriating at times and exhilarating at others.

"I told him he's a piece of work," OSU coach Travis Ford said. "You have to stick with him, because he's going to make plays. He's a competitor. That's what he did. He was huge down the stretch."

Smart's play was paramount in the late stages, but so was the steady play from the other two legs in the OSU tripod. Smart, Markel Brown and Le'Bryan Nash scored 26 of the final 30 points for the Pokes, who ended the contest on a 30-13 run after trailing by 10 midway through the second half.

Brown and Nash also played a key role in keeping OSU in contention during the early offensive woes, scoring 18 of the team's 25 first-half points.

Brown matched Smart with a game-high 21 points and did so on an efficient 4-of-7 shooting and 3-of-5 from 3-point range, highlighted by a SportsCenter-worthy alley-oop during the Cowboys' second-half rally and a 10-for-10 showing at the foul line.

Nash was a sturdy force in the paint against a decidedly taller Jayhawk unit, posting 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting with four rebounds.

All-in-all, the "Big Three" accounted for 58 of OSU's 72 points.

"That's just our offense. Our offense goes through us three. We're three big-time scorers, and we just like making plays," Nash said. "The good thing about it is that we're all good passers as well, so we were also trying to get our teammates going and keep them in the game. The shots are going to come to us, so we were just trying to keep them going so they can stay in the game with us."

Another key factor in this game was KU's sloppy play. Oklahoma State's defense deserves much of the credit, but Kansas routinely stubbed its toe with unforced errors on its way to 22 turnovers. The consistent miscues just poured fuel on the fire in front of a raucous gathering at GIA.

"I thought we kept them off balance after they went on that run early in the second half," Ford said. "We got them to turn it over and we were able to turn that to dunks at the other end, which energized us and got the fans going. We had such an incredible crowd. It's a great win against a great basketball team, who had a chance to clinch the regular season title outright. We talked about not letting it happen on our court."

The outright title happened anyway thanks to losses by Texas and Iowa State, but it's unlikely there was much celebrating going on aboard the KU bus.

Andrew Wiggins led Kansas (22-7, 13-3) with 15 points and snagged seven rebounds, but Smart dogged the All-American freshman into six turnovers and just 5-of-16 shooting, including 1-for-7 from 3.

Embiid and Wayne Selden Jr. had 13 points each in the loss. Embiid also had a game-high 13 rebounds.

This wasn't a "must win" for OSU but it was close. It certainly takes some of the pressure off, as most analysts projected that a loss to Kansas would require the Cowboys to beat Kansas State, Iowa State in Ames and at least one Big 12 tournament game to have a chance at punching a ticket to the Big Dance.

Now win out and it's a matter of seeding, not inclusion.

The Cowboys have some breathing room and an added boost of confidence with K-State coming to town for senior night at 8 on Monday in Gallagher-Iba Arena.

"Hopefully we can get another sellout crowd on Monday," Nash said. "It shows you that we need our fans. They really gave us a boost and helped us out a lot tonight. That's what we need."

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