I wrote about the Jeff Withey-Philip Jurick matchup for Saturday’s paper, considering it a vital piece of the puzzle in any OSU upset hopes.
Jurick doesn’t have to win the matchup, just prevent the Jayhawks center from being an overwhelming factor.
Another obvious pairing – and it’s one the TV guys will surely focus on – is the freshman faceoff: OSU’s Marcus Smart opposite KU’s Ben McLemore.
They are a pair of top talents, each projected for the NBA Draft lottery. They’re jockeying for the Big 12’s Freshman of the Year award, if not Player of the Year, before it’s all said and done. They were both Sporting News Midseason All-Americans.
McLemore leads KU in scoring at 16.1 points per game, which ranks second in the conference. A redshirt freshman from St. Louis, McLemore is dynamite from 3-point range, ranking second in the Big 12 at 45.1 percent on shots from the arc. He also leads the Big 12 in free throw percentage at 86.7, so it doesn’t pay to send him to the line.
Smart, the true freshman from Flower Mound, Texas, averages 13.6 points, second among a balanced OSU scoring attack that features four with double-figure averages. He leads the Big 12 in steals, ranks sixth in assists, ninth in scoring and 16th in rebounding. Smart’s 53 steals this season are the second-most among freshmen all-time in school history.
Smart, who seriously considered going to Kansas, said he’s been looking forward to this trip.
“We’ve been looking forward to this trip for a long time,” Smart said after OSU’s big Wednesday win over IowaState. “Kansas is a great team with a great coaching staff. We’re just going to have to come out and play. This (Iowa State) win just magnifies how much we’re going to have to stick together, going into a place like that and that atmosphere.
“We have to believe in one another and hold each other accountable for whatever we do for now on.”