STILLWATER — The Cowboys were rolling and Markel Brown kept adding to his library of dazzling dunks to giggles and grins Friday night.
Then Oklahoma State's treasured Marcus Smart took a shove from Arkansas-Pine Bluff big man Daniel Broughton, crashing hard — and loud — to the hardwood.
And a sobering realization hung in the air inside Gallagher-Iba Arena.
Even though Smart was fine, if a bit riled up, enough of the prelims. Enough glorified exhibitions against squads possibly looking to make their mark on the college game's most prominent player.
Bring on Memphis.
Fortunately for everyone involved — coaches, players and fans — that time has arrived, now that No. 8 OSU dispatched of its third straight nonconference nobody, 97-63.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff stood as the last of the tuneups. No. 13 Memphis arrives for a visit Tuesday night.
“This is something when they come out with the schedule, everyone sees,” said Cowboys sophomore Phil Forte. “Us included.
“Now that Memphis is next, all our attention and focus goes toward them.”
Until now, the Cowboys had been saying the right things. And doing the right things, playing with energy and focus against three overmatched foes. Still, they admitted, Memphis was on their minds.
“This is what we've been waiting for,” Brown said. “We finally have a big game. Hopefully we can get a packed house. It's here now. Should be a fun one.”
Brown and Phil Forte each scored 22 points against Pine Bluff, leading the way for the Cowboys. Forte tied his career-high with six made 3-pointers, and Brown seemed to alternate throw-downs with throw-ins from the perimeter.
Smart added 16 points and 14 rebounds and emerged unharmed, despite the 6-foot-8 Broughton's bully move on a rebound late in the first half.
Smart was called for a foul on the play, but while clutching the ball with Broughton on his back, the Lions' big man gave him a shove.
Smart sprang to his feet and his teammates rallied to the rescue. After the officials took a long look at the replay, Broughton was hit with a technical foul. Brown and Pine Bluff's Jaylon Floyd also received technical fouls.
“When you have a reputation of being a good basketball team or a reputation of being a good player, people are coming at you,” said Cowboys coach Travis Ford. “They want to prove a point. It kind of comes with the territory.
“We talk to our guys a lot about understanding that, about how you have to handle that.”
OSU has easily handled what's been thrown at them in the early going.
Now it gets more challenging.
“It's hard to ignore,” Brown said. “You see Memphis on the schedule and know that they're the No. 13 team in the country, playing them at home, it's hard to ignore.”