LAWRENCE, Kan. — NBA scouts flocked to Allen Fieldhouse. Thunder general manager Sam Presti sat front row.
They all convened in Lawrence for Saturday's game between Oklahoma State and Kansas to see three potential lottery picks.
OSU's Marcus Smart and Kansas' Ben McLemore headlined the event. And the size of Jayhawks star Jeff Withey provided plenty of pro intrigue. But in the first half of OSU's shocking 85-80 win over the second-ranked Jayhawks, Markel Brown stole the show.
OSU's highflying and (suddenly) sharpshooting two-guard was unconscious from deep, scoring 22 of his game-high 28 points in the first half.
He was 7 of 10 from the field and a scorching 5 of 7 from 3-point range in the best 20 minutes of his career. Combined, his teammates scored four fewer points (18) and made one less shot (6 of 24 shooting).
The rest of the Cowboys arrived in the second half, particularly Smart, who finished off OSU's biggest road win in the Ford era with a physical domination of KU's guards on the glass, in the paint and all over the backcourt.
But Brown is the one who got them there.
“(Brown) was great today,” KU coach Bill Self said. “In the first half, he wore us out. He was great … You come in here and make seven threes on ten shots? He was terrific.”
Brown finished with 28 points (two off his career-high), after only making two second-half shots, both threes.
But even on a bum left shoulder, which he aggravated late in the game, his impact was felt. Especially when it mattered most.
With 2:25 left and OSU clinging to a 69-68 lead, and the KU faithful on the verge of absolute eruption, Jayhawks guard Ben McLemore flew in for what would have been the go-ahead dunk.
But Brown leapt and cleanly swatted it away. Brown then snatched the rebound and, with it, KU's building momentum. OSU went on a game-deciding 6-0 run in the next minute.
“At game-point, he showed how athletic he was,” Self said. “That was the game-point play and he showed how athletic he was with that block.”
Throughout a steady junior season, OSU's longest-tenured player has been a model of consistency, scoring in double-digits in 18 of the Cowboys' 20 games and always providing energy and toughness.
But all the while, despite his athleticism and rapidly improving jumper, Brown has flown under the national radar.
“Probably not anymore,” Travis Ford admitted. “I mean, this was a big game for him.”
Marcus Smart and Le'Bryan Nash have gotten most of the attention thus far, but Brown's steady growth is earning him a share of the spotlight.
And not just for his highlight dunks.
“I kinda like it, no attention on me,” Brown said. “Just go out there, hit a couple shots and surprise them.”
Good luck surprising people anymore.