STILLWATER – Marcus Smart often relishes his complete stat lines.
Monday night, Smart was more about the second-half stat line of Kansas State’s Marcus Foster.
The Cowboys’ star held Foster scoreless after intermission, and Oklahoma State surged away from the Wildcats, romping 77-61 before an estimated crowd of 9,500 on Senior Night at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
Once reeling, Oklahoma State is now rolling after winning its fourth straight. The Cowboys leaned hard on their core Monday night, getting double-digit points from four starters. Phil Forte led all scorers with 23 points, Markel Brown added 15, Le’Bryan Nash 13 and Smart 18. And just like in Saturday night’s upset of Kansas, Smart again asserted himself down the stretch, scoring 17 of his points in the second half and doing a shutdown job on Foster, K-State’s leading scorer.
Foster led the Wildcats in the first half, scoring nine points as the focal point of the offense.
With Smart dogging him after intermission, Foster went 0-of-6 from the floor and failed to score.
“Foster is an unbelievable player,” Smart said. “He’s a freshman who’s still developing and is going to be a really good player. He was keeping them in it, doing some really good things. He was running off a lot of screens. They were trying to get him open every way they could.
“The second half, coach (Travis Ford) told me, ‘Don’t let him get hot, because once he gets hot, it’s hard to stop him.’ So I let these guys do most of the scoring. My job, to get the win tonight, was to stop him. And that’s what I tried to do.”
Tried and accomplished.
“Marcus Smart just locked into Marcus Foster,” said K-State coach Bruce Weber. “He taught him a lesson.
“Hopefully, the next time, if we get the opportunity, Marcus will react a little better – our Marcus.”
OSU’s Marcus was dominant again in the second half, on both ends.
His stat line was impressive: six rebounds, five assists and three steals, to go along with the points, 10 of which came in the final 7:58, when the Cowboys blew the game open.
“They made plays like big boys and we didn’t react to it very well,” Weber said. “They just kind of punched us and took it at us. I don’t think it was that we quit or anything, we just didn’t compete. They punched us and we slapped back.”
Forte played a major role late as well, with four of his six 3-pointers coming in the second half.
The runaway win made for a feel-good game on Senior Night, with Brown, Smart and Mason Cox saluted before the game.
It left the Cowboys feeling good about their postseason hopes, too. Heading into a telling three-game stretch weighing heavily on their NCAA Tournament hopes, the Cowboys have won the first two, enough according to some national analysts to cement their postseason status.
With the win, the Cowboys improved to 20-10 overall and 8-9 in the Big 12, moving into seventh place in the conference standings ahead of 7-9 Baylor, which is home to face No. 16-ranked Iowa State on Tuesday night. And that’s their preference, since the No. 7 seed in next week’s Big 12 Tournament opens against last-place TCU and lands in the side of the bracket opposite league champion Kansas.
OSU finishes the regular season Saturday at Iowa State, looking much different than the squad that only recently had lost seven straight.
“It was more of the small things that we weren’t doing out on the court,” Brown said. “Things like helping each other, tight huddles, boxing out, ending the play with a rebound. We looked at the film of all the games we lost and we’ve corrected a lot of the mistakes.
“Now we’re sharing the ball on offense and making each other good out there. We’re just doing a good job of spreading the butter.”