The list of accolades Marcus Smart won in his illustrious high school career is enough to catch anyone's attention but there were two scouting reports awarded to Oklahoma State's standout freshman that seemed to always pop up.
First off, Smart has been consistently praised for raising the level of play of those around him with his intense work ethic. Secondly, he lives for the big games.
It hasn't taken him long to give credence to that positive word-of-mouth. In just his fourth collegiate game, Smart powered Oklahoma State to a 76-56 beatdown of No. 6 North Carolina State in the finals of the Puerto Rico Tipoff championship game.
Now he can add Tournament MVP honors to his ever-expanding trophy case.
The Flower Mound, Texas, native scored 18 of his 20 points in the first half, helping the unbeaten Cowboys to a double-digit lead and setting an early tone in a game where OSU outplayed N.C. State in nearly every facet of the game.
But 20 points hardly does justice to Smart's impact on this game. He added seven rebounds, seven assists, four blocks and four steals, generally making life miserable for the star-studded Wolfpack.
In the second half, Smart transitioned into more of a facilitator role as Le'Bryan Nash and Phil Forte took over the scoring load. Nash scored 17 of his game-high 23 points in the second half and his aggression around the rim helped him get to the line often, where he converted 13-of-13 free throws.
Forte, Smart's high school teammate at Flower Mound Marcus, added 17 points with a 4-for-8 performance from the 3-point line as the Cowboy trio accounted for 60 of the team's 76 points on the night.
OSU's McDonald's All-American tandem of Smart and Nash finished with 43 points while OSU's stifling defense limited N.C. State's dynamic duo of C.J. Leslie and Lorenzo Brown to eight total points on 3-of-14 shooting.
Leslie fouled out on a technical with 17:06 remaining in the first half, largely out of frustration stemming from an OSU defense that held the Wolfpack to 35.5 percent shooting and forced 12 turnovers.
N.C. State entered the game averaging 87.7 points per game but was limited to just 56 – 28 in each half – further showcasing OSU coach Travis Ford's claim that this OSU team will rely heavily on defensive pressure this season.
The Cowboys also dominated the glass despite their obvious size disadvantage, outrebounding the nation's sixth-ranked team 45-34.
Rodney Purvis led the Wolfpack with 16 points but committed seven turnovers on Sunday, T.J. Warren added 15 points.
This was a game Oklahoma State dominated from the opening tip and every time the Wolfpack looked poised to make a run, OSU had an answer in a game that will be looked at extremely favorably come NCAA Tournament selection time.
"The way we started the game was the difference," Ford said. "We played with a high level of intensity, playing above the rim and taking them out the areas where they like to score. N.C. State might have the most potent offense we will see all year. Their top six guys can score in so many different ways. N.C. State is one of the top teams in America and we competed with them in every aspect."
Oklahoma State returns to action next Sunday at 2:05 p.m. when the Cowboys host Portland State in Gallagher-Iba Arena.