OSU Cowboys Beat Texas Tech, Advance In Big 12 Tournament
Marcus Smart left one last impression on Texas Tech, scoring 18 points and leading seventh-seeded Oklahoma State to an 80-62 victory over the ninth-seeded Red Raiders on Wednesday night in the first round of the Big 12 tournament.
Smart also had seven rebounds, seven assists and six steals for the Cowboys (21-11), who built a 46-23 lead by halftime and then cruised into Thursdays' quarterfinal against top-seeded Kansas.
Markel Brown had 20 points, Phil Forte added 14 off the bench and Le'Bryan Nash scored 10 for Oklahoma State, which has never lost in 10 first-round games at the Big 12 tournament.
Jaye Crockett led the Red Raiders (14-18) with 20 points. Dejan Kravic added 18 points and 12 rebounds.
Their victory also meant first-year Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith finished with a losing record for the first time in 23 seasons, spanning stints at Tulsa, Georgia, Kentucky and Minnesota.
Below is a transcript from OSU's media session with head coach Travis Ford, Marcus Smart, and Markel Brown.
COACH FORD: Proud of the win, proud of the effort. Thought we got after it defensively in the first half, after we got out to a slow start, obviously, and a little bit mud. But I wasn't overly concerned about it.
I thought we would get into the flow, but our defense really started causing some turnovers. These guys were very, very active, very active defensively in the first half, not quite as much the second half.
And I thought we ran our offense for the first time pretty complete for 40 minutes. Pretty good for 40 minutes. We took good shots.
We had good possessions, and we've got a lot of respect for Texas Tech. That's a really good basketball team, a big physical team.
So a good win for our team. Didn't rebound the ball very well in the second half. But hopefully we saved a few.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes first.
Q. Marcus, how important was Markel's leadership throughout the year with all the different challenges that this program has had? And the second question after that is for Markel. How much responsibility did you take upon yourself to be a leader during those tough times?
MARCUS SMART: You know, it was tremendous on his part, especially everything that this team has been going through.
You know, we needed that type of leadership, him being the senior captain on this team. He stood up and took responsibility when we needed it. It not only helped him but helped his team in a variety of ways. We're playing better basketball and part of it is because of him.
MARKEL BROWN: I think stepping up was crucial for me, because I've been in those situations before with this ball club. I've been in some tough situations, and I was able to fight out of it.
So being there, to help them, cheer them on, to let them know that we can fight another day was huge for me because the knowledge I have and these guys have been on this team and they've been around us for a long time.
Marcus, second year here. And he kind of knows the background of this team, and he knows how to fight out of situations like that also.
So I think we just came together as a team at the right time and now we're moving a step forward.
Q. Marcus, about tonight's game, you were down 8-0. What were your thoughts then, and then you came, went on a big like 17-1 run. Took over defensively, a lot of and-1s. Take us through the first half when you knocked them out?
MARCUS SMART: We've been playing very well on the defensive end lately. And we looked at each other, and we looked over at the bench at Coach Ford. You could see he was a little disgusted how we were playing defensively, which was understood, because this team understands that we're a very well defensive team, and we can turn people over. And we can press the pressure around people.
And we understood that Texas Tech was going to come out and give us a punch. We had to sustain it. We were a little slow. We looked at Coach and we decided, you know, huddled everybody up, me and Markel, and we told them it's 8-0. We already know what Texas Tech is coming to do. They threw a punch and we have to throw one back and keep fighting, and that's what we did.
Q. Markel, could you talk about that first half, because you guys were struggling offensively. You hit a couple of 3s. Looked like you were trying to make some things happen. You were kind of -- you were looking for your shot more during that period.
MARKEL BROWN: I was just playing with the flow. I seen that our offense wasn't clicking in the first eight minutes. And I just wanted to go out there and make a play for our team.
And once I started making shots, that opened up things for other players, and that's when our defense came along. Marcus ended up with six steals tonight, which was huge, and we was able to pressure the ball and find the shots we needed.
Q. Marcus, Markel mentioned your steals. You got a bunch of picks in the first half that led to run-outs and easy layups. Do you see those coming? Are they stuff you see on film? Are they just the feel of the game? How are you able to get so many steals?
MARCUS SMART: You know, our coaching staff always talk to us about being at the right place at the right time and, you know, extra efforts. And, you know, it's kind of what it was tonight. I just kept giving it extra effort, helping anybody that needed help and recovering back and just being in the right place at the right time and being active.
And I came up with six steals and, you know, they were some major steals at crucial times, and it's not just me out there, though, you have Brian Williams, Markel Brown, Phil Forte, those guys up front, they're out there applying the pressure, allowing me to roam in the backfield and to come up with those steals.
Q. Both of you, in the first half, especially, looked like you guys were comfortable. You were having some fun on the floor. With everything that's been going on this year, is this the most comfortable you've been as a group and therefore are you playing your best ball now?
MARCUS SMART: Definitely. You know, we have had a lot of downfalls this year in this season but, you know, everything happens for a reason. It was a big learning point for this basketball team. It tested our character.
And, you know, to see how we was going to respond, we came out and responded in a way that we expected to respond, and we came out, we gelled together as a team. That's all the coaching staff talked about, when your backs are up against the wall, all you can do is lean on your teammates. And that's what we did, and we started gelling at the right time.
MARKEL BROWN: I honestly think that we're playing good right now, but our best basketball is still to come.
I feel like we still have little small mistakes that we can adjust, and that will make us a better team, and I think our best basketball is still ahead of us.
Q. Did that feel like Oklahoma State basketball out there? Did it feel like the guys were running up and down the floor and stealing the ball and having fun, things like that? Did it feel good after some of the things you guys went through this year?
COACH FORD: I think we've been playing like that lately. How we played tonight was the same way we played against them the second time around, which was six games, five games ago. We did it against TCU a little bit. We've been very aggressive the last five or six games.
So that's why I really wasn't -- I was upset how we got started, but I wasn't overly concerned. I thought we would get into a flow.
But, yeah, I agree that's when we're at our best, when we're out there being aggressive and playing as a team. Our chemistry is good right now. When we weren't playing well, the chemistry wasn't there and their chemistry is much better right now.
So I think even last game, I thought we played well. And so I was pleased with how we played, especially how we started, came back, playing in the tournament game. We got a lot of respect for Texas Tech.
You look at the teams they've beaten and the games they've been in for us, I was concerned about this game, especially because we beat them pretty good the second time. It's tough. It's tough. And I was very happy with the way our guys responded. Very pleased.
Q. When you look back at this season, all the challenges you all have had, where would this team be without Markel Brown?
COACH FORD: That's a good question. I think Markel Brown is one of the premier players in the country. What he does for our basketball team, we asked him to play three different positions. He played point guard probably 15 minutes of the game tonight. Obviously when Marcus was out, he played point guard for every game for 40 some minutes every game, went overtime one game.
And we asked him to score. We asked him to defend. We asked him to do a lot. But he's one of the more versatile scorers in the country, scores in a variety of ways. Best pullup game in America. Knocking down 3s. I was a little upset with his free throws tonight, but we made them in the second half.
But, no, Markel Brown is an extremely valuable piece -- he's a senior, the only senior on our basketball team. People forget that. He's our only senior. And right now he's acting like a senior.
He's what you would want. You look at his numbers every year, he's improving every year, and I think he's got a great future at the next level as well.
Q. Travis, the way you played defensive pressure out on the perimeter, a team as undersized as you are, is that what you have to do to succeed at a big time level, is pressure the ball the way you guys did?
COACH FORD: It has a little bit to do with it. We still need to rebound the ball better, period. The second half I wasn't very happy with the rebounding; but, yeah, we need to get after it defensively.
For the most part, we've had pretty good defensive numbers throughout the year. We just need to add a little bit of rebounding to it. We're getting some stops, but we're just not rewarding ourselves. We need to get after it defensively, need to get after it.
Q. The second half, that lead was hanging right around 15, 16 points. What's the thought process? As the clock's winding down, you're thinking possibly into the future you've got to win four in four days to win this tournament, any of that start to go through your mind or where you start to pull guys out?
COACH FORD: I wasn't crazy how we played, but we kept it right there where we needed to. We weren't rebounding the ball well. I wanted our guys to play out of that.
I wanted them to get on a run and feel good about themselves and bring them out of the game. But we never really -- Phil Forte made some 3s to stretch it back out.
But to answer your question, yes and no. Yes, I understand we need to rest them up, but no excuses. They're 18, 19. Whatever the next game is, there's no excuses, we need to play. I'm not going to sit here tomorrow -- you know, we don't need to even think about that.
Other than get our guys off their feet. But, hey, these guys should be excited about being able to play in another game. So not overly concerned about it. But you gotta pay attention to it.
Q. You do have another game against Kansas without Joel Embiid. You took care of them last time. Talk about that matchup tomorrow.
COACH FORD: One of the great teams in the country, and they've proven it all year long. Big 12 champs. And Embiid, I think, is one of the -- I've said it before, one of the more special players. I think in four or five years he might be one of the best players in the world.
But they have other options. They've got plenty of guys to turn to that have stepped up. Black has played really well in the absence of Embiid. They've got other guys, Traylor and Lucas, that can come in. Perry Ellis.
You're always going to miss a player like Embiid. He's special. But they've got guys they can turn to and that can pick it up for them.
So we understand the challenge is going to be an incredible challenge. We have a lot of respect for Kansas, and we understand how good they are.