But Smart is the catalyst. And a classic Smart stretch turned this game late.
The Cowboys trailed 61-57 with 41/2 minutes remaining, but Smart nailed a shot that was ruled a 3-pointer, and as KSU brought the ball upcourt, officials stopped play to check the monitor. Sure enough, Smart's foot was on the line, and his basket was worth just two points.
But then Smart drew a push-off foul from KSU's Angel Rodriguez on the inbounds pass.
Smart then was fouled on a 3-point shot, hit two of the foul shots to tie and OSU never trailed again.
“Sometimes that's gone the other way,” Ford said of Rodriguez's offensive foul. “Teams have started really being physical with him, and he puts up with it, and puts up with it. Pretty smart player. At some point, he's gotta be rewarded.”
This was a pristine performance by Smart against a rugged team. KSU is not flashy but is all kinds of tough and experienced. Weber is an excellent coach. The Wildcats, even with the loss, tied Kansas for the Big 12 title.
“One of Marcus' best games in awhile,” Ford said. “He really ran our team like a great point guard. Had that stat line again we've been looking for.
“He's always involved in a play, good or bad. He's going to be in the middle of the action, and more times than not, he's going to make a positive play.”
Moments after the victory, Smart was with the crowd that earlier had been serenading him. He stood with OSU students singing the alma mater, and for a moment, you let your imagination loose, thinking he just might stay.
And even if Smart does leave, he hasn't left yet. This great ride continues.
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.