STILLWATER — Coach Travis Ford envisioned a sloppy performance awaiting the Oklahoma State basketball team Sunday afternoon, saying it pregame and lamenting it postgame.
With the roster gutted by injuries, OSU was out of sync all week, getting little court time with limited bodies.
“I was out there practicing Wednesday and Thursday,” Ford said. “And that's not good.”
But despite those scarce reps, his 20th-ranked Cowboys delivered a clean and crisp performance, dominating Portland State 81-58 for their fifth consecutive win to start the season.
And the Cowboy offense was in rare form, flowing with a continued rhythm that's routinely escaped them the past few years.
OSU opened up an early 34-16 lead, making the highlight passes and smart passes for 12 assists on its first 13 buckets. Last season, the Cowboys averaged only 11.
“Twelve assists in the first 14 minutes and I think we had nine assists in the first six minutes,” Ford happily recalled postgame.
The Cowboys finished with a season-high 19 assists, slowing down in the second half but still finishing with the second most they've had the past two years.
And much of that can be attributed to OSU's do-everything newcomer.
Despite scoring only eight points (on 3-9 shooting), Marcus Smart had a team-high and season-high nine assists, tossing no-look drop-offs and perfectly timed lobs.
“When you're looking to run a team as much as he is, it's hard to get in the flow of scoring,” Ford said of Smart. “He can make some of those (tough shots he took), but him getting those assists is what we've been looking for."
And a couple of those early Smart alley-oops got his highflying recipient going.
Markel Brown, who had been struggling of late, threw in a trio of ferocious dunks in the first half before showing off his newfound shooting stroke in the second.
Overall, the junior wing finished with a game-high 23 points, shooting an impressive 10-14 from the field and 3-4 from deep. He also added five assists and five rebounds.
“Going back to the N.C. State game, I wasn't very happy with the game that I had,” Brown said. “I shot 2-for-11, so today was a good game for me. I had to come out and make shots to get my comfort level back up.”
Le'Bryan Nash added 20 points and five rebounds, while Phil Forte poured in 15 points in 27 minutes off the bench.
And the Cowboys, despite a depleted bench that's cut their rotation to seven, cruised to an in-progress five-game win streak, already two games longer than any from last year.
“(Our offense) is way more crisp (this year),” Brown said. “We're playing with each other. You can tell that we can score in good situations. Adding Marcus to the point guard spot has really helped. He's moving the ball well and putting up crazy numbers in assists. We are just playing better as a team overall.”