MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Just a few minutes into Oklahoma State's game at West Virginia Saturday, it looked like the ghosts of Wednesday's double-overtime loss to Kansas had followed the Cowboys to Morgantown.
The WVU Coliseum crowd was rocking, the Mountaineers had jumped out to a 7-2 lead and, worst of all, Marcus Smart picked up his third foul just 2:34 into the game.
Instead of panicking, the Cowboys calmed down, clawed back into the first half — without Smart — and ran away with the second en route to a 73-57 win.
“We were looking to light a fire under our team, I just didn't see it,” Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said. “After all that happened — we got down, things didn't seem to go our way — I think it refocused us in some strange way.”
With Smart out for the final 17 minutes of the first half, the Cowboys turned to other options as they gathered their composure. Le'Bryan Nash had 16 points, including 10 in the first half, and Brian Williams scored a season-high 13.
Smart returned for the second half, and didn't pick up another foul the rest of the way. Even though he didn't record his first field-goal attempt until four minutes into the second half, the freshman finished with 14 points, four assists and three steals.
“We did a lot to protect him, too,” Ford said. “We changed him in positions in our press, we put him in different spots in our zone. We tried to protect him as much as we could to keep him out of foul trouble, but he's a smart player.”
After fighting back to take a 35-33 halftime lead, Oklahoma State wasted little time putting the game out of reach in the second half. After a 3-pointer from West Virginia's Matt Humphrey cut the Cowboys' lead to 45-41 with 14:39 to play, Oklahoma State roared back with a 15-4 run — highlighted by seven points from Smart — over the next 5:50 to put the game out of reach.
Ford also said he turned to his pressure defense earlier than usual, but the move paid dividends in the second half. After just six West Virginia turnovers in the first half, the Cowboys forced 11 in the second, including four steals. That defense transitioned into offense, too, as Oklahoma State got 14 points off turnovers in the second half.
“That's what we emphasize,” Williams said. “We were going to try and speed them up a little bit, see if we can get the guards to turn the ball over, see if we can get the bigs to speed up a little bit and it worked.”
The Cowboys had five players score in double figures. In addition to Nash, Williams and Smart, Markel Brown had 16 points and Michael Cobbins added 10.
With West Virginia's defense causing problems early, Oklahoma State had to find opportunities to score in different ways. The result was 36 points in the paint, the Cowboys' highest total in Big 12 play this season.
“We had to score more one-on-one than we have in a long time,” Ford said. “We weren't able to run, score out of our options because West Virginia did such a good job physically taking us out of our options. So we had to counter with some things.”
Oklahoma State will now travel to take on TCU Wednesday. The Horned Frogs made waves by upsetting Kansas earlier this season.
“They're all big,” Ford said. “I shouldn't have to spend a whole lot of time motivating our guys to be ready because, at this point, they're all big.”