By Anthony Slater – Aslater@opubco.com - @anthonyVslater
Oklahoma State fell 73-67 to Kansas State in the Big 12 opener in Manhattan on Saturday. Here’s some rapid reaction:
In the first 20 minutes, the inconsistent Rodney McGruder was a nonfactor, struggling through a 1/5 shooting performance for two points. But in half #2, K-State’s streaky shooting guard went all Reggie Miller on Oklahoma State, scoring 26 crucial point on a scorching 10/14 shooting (5/7 from three). Rodney McGruder got hot and the Cowboys got torched.
It was over when…
…McGruder delivered the final daggers, raining in back-to-back threes in the game’s deciding possessions. It turned a 64-64 game into a 70-65 Kansas State lead. The first came off an offensive rebound and kick out, with the other delivered after a bad defensive mix-up (which seemed to happening a lot in the second half).
Smart’s Big 12 debut
The loss was no fault of OSU’s spectacular freshman, who continues to ascend toward higher heights as the competition rises. Marcus Smart shot 7/10 from the field, scoring a career-high 25 points in his Big 12 debut. And he did it with a certain confidence and scowl, knowing he was the best player on the floor (sans McGruder’s lights-out streak) and continually proving it. The Cowboys have something special, and it’s becoming more evident by the day.
Rising – Markel Brown’s game
No longer just a one trick pony (however great that trick may be), OSU’s high-flying acrobat has refined his all-around game and developed into a compatible backcourt sidekick. Brown was, once again, elusive with the drive and smooth around the rim (two qualities he didn’t have upon arrival in Stillwater), scoring 19 points on 7/14 shooting. He’s scored double-digits in 12 of the 13 games this year, showing much-needed consistency. And don’t worry Pokes fans, the dramatic flair is still there. He had two monstrous dunks on Saturday, including this gem.
Falling – Le’Bryan Nash’s play
Disengaged and disinterested, Le’Bryan Nash was nowhere to be seen again. It wasn’t an awful performance, just an invisible one. The five-star recruit, who suffered through a rocky freshman season, was supposed to make the sophomore jump. Instead it’s been more of a slump. Reduced to corner spectator and lost defender, he had six points, three rebounds and four fouls in 34 uneventful minutes. To meet its potential, OSU needs far more out of one of its supposed stars.
What it means
Kansas State has the upper hand in the expected battle for second place in the Big 12 (although Baylor may have something to say about that). It’s a tough loss, but not a terrible one. OSU battled a ranked team to the wire in a tough environment. The Cowboys will get a chance to nullify the loss when K-State visits Stillwater on March 9 for the season finale.
Stat of the game
The Cowboys’ bench was outscored 27-11 on Saturday. It was an underrated factor in the game. Overall, K-State’s second-unit was huge, going 11/21 from the floor while their OSU counterparts struggled through a 2/13 day.
Stat of the game II
Oklahoma State is now 1-17 in Big 12 road games since 2010.
Want some good news Cowboy fans? OSU gets TCU in Stillwater on Wednesday. The Horned Frogs are also known as the ‘automatic win’ in Big 12 hoops.