By Jason Elmquist
CNHI News Service
STILLWATER – If Marcus Smart has played his last game at Gallagher-Iba Arena, he went out the way he’s played all year – as a winner.
Behind the play of the freshman point guard and sophomore forward Le’Bryan Nash, No. 13 Oklahoma State bested ninth-ranked Kansas State 76-70 to finish third in the Big 12 Conference.
“This place means a lot to me. The fans have been incredible,” said Smart, who is projected as a top three pick in NBA Draft. “They brought me into this OSU family, and it’s been a really good ride. It was really great to end the season with a win at home tonight.”
Smart had a typical stat-stuffing performance with 21 points – going 7 for 11 from the field and 6 of 7 at the free-throw line – along with six rebounds and six assists. The OSU faithful understood the significance of Smart’s role on this year’s team, with the student section chanting “One more year!” each time he stepped up to the free-throw line.
“I definitely heard them, but I tried to block it out,” Smart said. “It seems like I at least hear it once a game now.”
It’s not just the stat sheet that has made the freshman from Flower Mound, Texas, so special for the Pokes.
With the Cowboys (23-7, 13-5 in Big 12) having fought there way back from a sluggish start to the second, a heady Smart drew a deadball foul of K-State’s Angel Rodriguez with OSU trailing by two with four minutes remaining in the contest. Oklahoma State went on a 12-1 run following the foul and ride away with the upset of a top 10 team.
“It was a big one. They had the ball with the momentum and us down two,” Smart said. “When they called it, their momentum just dropped. The fans erupted. It gave our team the spark that we needed to make a run.”
OSU coach Travis Ford added, “He’s always involved in it. He’s always involved in the play – good or bad. He’s going to be in the middle of the action and more times than not, he’s going to make a positive play. That’s just his game, that’s just his nature.”