Entering Tuesday night's showdown between No. 7 OSU and No. 11 Memphis, the game shaped up as a battle of two of the nation's top backcourts.
One CBSSports.com ranking had the Tigers' guards at No. 1 as a group, the Cowboys No. 3.
The Cowboys won the matchup — and the game — decisively.
Marcus Smart outscored the Tigers' touted four seniors — Joe Jackson, Michael Dixon, Geron Johnson and Chris Crawford — by himself, with 39 points. Markel Brown added 20 more and Stevie Clark nine. And the Cowboys were essentially without Phil Forte, who played just four minutes due to a stomach bug.
“Just because everybody says they're the top-ranked backcourt in the country, we weren't going to stop playing our game,” Smart said. “We wanted to show everybody that we're not backing down.
“They have some talented guys. Joe Jackson, Dixon — all of those guys are phenomenal guys, NBA prospect-type guys. They can really get down and play. But as a competitor, that's always going to motivate you.”
Memphis' four premium guards combined to go 8 of 34 from the field, 0 of 8 from the arc. Dixon and Johnson each shot 1-for-10 from the floor.
“I've been saying it for a long time now,” said Memphis coach Josh Pastner, “I believe for our team to be great — which I believe we can be great — all four senior guards I expect to be great. Tonight, I didn't see that coming, how they played.
“I didn't see that coming that they were all going to play … not good.”
ENJOY THE SHOW
Smart made a second-half 3-pointer to give OSU a 64-43 lead, then looked over at the lanky fellow sitting courtside. Kevin Durant.
No, Smart said, he wasn't issuing a challenge to the NBA superstar. “I just wanted to see him enjoying the show,” Smart said.
Durant did indeed seem to enjoy the show. And the Cowboys enjoyed Durant.
“That was crazy. Our coach actually told us that he asked to come,” Smart said. “We were like, ‘Kevin Durant, really? C'mon.'
“And then, we look on the front row, like they say, the UNLV Gucci Row, he's sitting there and I'm like, ‘Whoa, whoa, wait a minute. Am I dreaming?' I look at Markel (Brown) and say, ‘Is that really Kevin Durant?' He said yeah and I'm like, ‘Nah.' And I look and he's sitting right there. That was an amazing experience to be a part of.
“We saw Kevin Durant, we just wanted to go out and put on a show for him.”
Mission accomplished. In Durant's only Gallagher-Iba Arena game, he scored 37 points in Texas' 105-103, triple-overtime loss to OSU. Tuesday night, Smart scored 39.
PASTNER SALUTES SUTTON
Former OSU coach Eddie Sutton was on hand for Tuesday night's game, seated midcourt in his customary spot.
Earlier in the day, Pastner spent some time with the Cowboys legend, and enjoyed it.
“I had a chance to spend a couple of minutes with Eddie Sutton,” Pastner said. “What a true gentleman. I tried to get osmosis from him and obviously it didn't work.
“I really hope he gets in the Hall of Fame, he deserves to be in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Not that I have any juice, because I don't, but he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame and he's a good man.”
Pastner on the game: “Oklahoma State, they kicked our butt. Bottom line. No other way to look at it.”
UP NEXT: SOUTH FLORIDA
The Cowboys get a few days off before heading to the Sunshine State for a week of play.
It starts with a visit to South Florida on Monday, followed by three games in the Old Spice Classic in Orlando.