KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Marcus Smart muscled in a driving bank shot 4 1/2 minutes into the game Friday night. Call it a moral victory; OSU's first time to even hit the rim with a shot.
And things never really got better for the Cowboys.
Kansas State put a defensive whipping on OSU in the Big 12 semifinals, winning 68-57 to put the Cowboys on notice.
This kind of offense will not do next week when the NCAA Tournament convenes.
“Congratulations to Kansas State,” said OSU coach Travis Ford. “From the time the ball was thrown up, they brought their hard hats. We didn't come out of the gates the way we were wanting.”
The Cowboys didn't just miss shots. They failed to find good shots. Big difference. And a big concern. The March Madness field is littered with coaches who can boil up some stiff defense.
Of course, none of them will know the Cowboys as well as does KSU coach Bruce Weber, whose team plays big-time defense and who six days earlier took his team to Stillwater for a similarly-tough prizefight.
The fresh meat of the NCAA Tournament could be an offensive blessing to the Cowboys. Time to play someone who hasn't studied long and hard to find their vulnerable spots.
“You gotta keep Smart in front of you, keep Nash in front of you,” Weber said. “It's really hard to do. They're both talented.
“We did a great job of, we call it frenzy. If somebody helps, you go help them. You play in a frenzy.”
Against K-State, Smart was reduced to a variety of difficult drives, with little opportunity to pass off.
The Cowboys were hurt by foul trouble — Markel Brown played just 3:08 of the first half and Le'Bryan Nash sat out the final 8:50 — but their void didn't bring the offensive woes.
OSU committed turnovers on its first three possessions. Its first two shots were blocked. Then Michael Cobbins missed two foul shots. Finally, Smart air-balled a 3-point shot.
Painful to watch and painful to play.
“We just weren't in rhythm to start the game, and it just carried over as the game went on,” Smart said. “We were searching for it, but it just wasn't there for us.”
The only salvation was that Kansas State was not any better. The Wildcats missed 10 of their first 11 shots — and still led, 7-5.
KSU eventually warmed up and shot 39.3 percent for the game, a rousing figure compared to OSU's 30.5.
The lethargic start infuriated Ford. Seething, Ford called timeout seven minutes into the game and inserted seldom-used walk-on Christian Sager.
The Cowboys eventually worked out of their lethargy, even to the point that Ford praised their fire all game long.
“It's amazing we hung in the game,” Ford said. “We were fighting out there. We may have been a step slow fighting and moving, but I thought our guys were trying to make things happen.”
Maybe so. But OSU came out of halftime in more offensive malaise.
Cobbins lost the ball trying to maneuver in the paint. Smart tried to shoot over 6-foot-11 Jordan Henriquez and clanged the ball off the rim. Brown turned down a decent 3-point look and settled for a hurried 18-footer that hit only the backboard. Finally, OSU was called for a 10-second violation trying to get the ball past midcourt.
Meanwhile, Rodney McGruder scored on K-State's first four possessions of the half, giving KSU a 37-25 lead and putting OSU in a rest-of-the-game hole.
With 10 minutes left in the game, Brown and Nash had combined for two points, though they rallied down the stretch to combine for 19.
“I wish we could have played better,” Ford said. “I wish we wouldn't have gotten in foul trouble. Even if we hadn't gotten in foul trouble, they were really good tonight.
“Kansas State is a good basketball team. They're going to win more games.”
OSU should, too. But not playing offense like this.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.