Up 23 at the half and never in danger the final 20 minutes, OSU was able to play less stressful minutes and even get some players off the floor.
Due back at the Sprint Center in less than 24 hours to face No. 1-seed Kansas, that’s a good thing.
“We’ve got a 2 o’clock turnaround,” said OSU guard Markel Brown. “I feel like we put ourselves in a good position to rest our bodies for that game. We got out and made some shots and were able to put some guys on the bench.
By the time (Thursday) comes, we’ll be ready to play.”
Brian Williams played 20 minutes off the bench, while Leyton Hammonds gave the Cowboys 18 and Christien Sager 10.
“That was a major deal to us,” said Marcus Smart, “because you don’t want your starting players to have to play that many minutes and turn around with less than 24 hours to play another key game.”
KANSAS PLAYING MINUS EMBIID
The Cowboys split their regular season series with Kansas, but it’ll be a different-looking Jayhawks squad they get here in Kansas City.
KU won’t have 7-footer Joel Embiid, who won’t play in the tournament due to a back injury that threatens keep him sidelined into the NCAA Tournament.
“You’re always going to miss a player like Embiid,” said Cowboys coach Travis Ford. “He’s special. But they’ve got guys they can turn to and that can pick it up for them.”
Tarik Black, a bulky 6-8 forward, steps into a starting role with Embiid out. KU also has 6-8 Jamari Traylor and 6-10 Landen Lucas to rotate into the post.
None, however, offer the same impact as Embiid, who averages 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and holds the KU freshman record with 72 blocked shots.
“Kansas is a great team, even without Embiid,” Smart said. “It’s tough to see a player of his caliber go down in that type of fashion. Prayers go out and hopefully he can get back
“ But their inside presence is as strong as if he was still on the court.”
BROWN’S SHOOTING SPARKS SURGE
Texas Tech actually jumped to an 8-0 lead against the Cowboys. And it was still 8-5 when Brown fired in a 3-pointer to tie it, then was fouled shooting a 3 and made every free throw to give OSU its first lead.
Brown kept firing – and making – and the Cowboys lead kept bulging.
He finished 5-of-9 from the floor and 3-of-6 from the arc, scoring a team-high 20 points. But 18 came in the first half, as OSU mounted a 46-23 halftime lead.
“I saw that our offense wasn’t clicking in the first eight minutes,” Brown said. “I just wanted to go out there and make a play for our team. And once I started making shots, that opened things up for other players, and that’s when out defense came along.”
Tech forward Jaye Crockett on Smart:
“He’s kind of like a pest, like some small guys that kind of get in there, except he’s big and he does it. He works hard during the whole game, and he leads his team. He’s out there talking the whole time. He’s really aggressive. That’s what he does with his opponents. He’s more aggressive than them, and he works and gets a lot of steals and deflections on defense.”
•OSU improved to 10-0 on the first day of the Big 12 Tournament and 23-15 overall in the event.
•Smart set a school tournament single-game record with six steals against Tech.
•Hammonds, a reserve, scored OSU’s first points, firing in a 3-pointer at the 16:57 mark.