While most of the 6,240 crowd in the Sun Dome came to see if the USF Bulls could contain all-everything guard Marcus Smart, they quickly learned that the Oklahoma State Cowboys are more than a one-man team and were introduced Smart’s equally talented teammate Markel Brown.
Brown surprisingly overshadowed his more heralded teammate and had an efficient 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting, seven assists, zero turnovers and three blocks as he led the Cowboys to a 93 to 67 victory over the Bulls.
“Brown is probably the best player on their team overall,” said senior forward Victor Rudd. “He was high on our scouting list… he knocked down a lot of tough shots.”
To start the game the Bulls matched the Cowboys step-for-step as there were eight lead changes early on.
But the momentum pendulum started swinging only in the Cowboys direction as the Bulls started to miss their shots while Oklahoma State players like Phil Forte, who finished with 11 points and three 3-pointers, continued to make theirs.
Marcus Smart came into the game averaging 20 points-per-game with a season high of 39 in their last game against Memphis. While he was able to score 25 points on 8-of-16 shooting, four assist four steals and had an emphatic block shot, he was limited to only two points in the second half and was only 1-of-5 from beyond the 3-point line.
However that one triple was special — a three-quarter court basket as the first half ended to make the score 51 to 35. While the Bulls players felt that they weren’t affected by the deep shot, its hard not to think that it didn’t kill some momentum as they had just made a basket to cut the lead to 13.
“I’ve seen him do that many times, it’s almost as if he practices that… it was a big boost for us going into halftime,” said Markel Brown.
“We got beat by a better team,” said Coach Heath. “We had segments in the game where we stalled offensively and forced some shots and they took advantage of that.”
Whether it was the pressure to perform on a bigger stage or being forced into tougher shots by the suffocating interior defense by the Cowboys, Collins and Corey Allen Jr. struggled throughout the night.
Collins only scored three points on 1-of-5 shooting, had an uncharacteristic six turnovers and never seemed to find his rhythm.
Allen Jr. who was coming off a 19 point performance against Stetson Friday, also found it difficult to convert shots as well and only scored seven points on 2-of-9 shooting — He did show some toughness by finishing with a game high 10 rebounds.
“We beat a good team tonight… they are going to win a lot of games” said Head Coach Travis Ford of Oklahoma State. “We were worried about their big men, they are both very talented big skilled and understand how to play.”
Though many NBA scouts were in attendance to see Marcus Smart play, they should have taken notice of the talented USF freshmen John Egbunu (15 points eight rebounds and two blocks) and Chris Perry (10 points, four rebounds) as well — while they may not be one-and-done type talents, they do possess the potential to be considered professional players down the line
The Bulls look to get back to their winning ways this Saturday as they host the University of Detroit Titans at 7:00 p.m at the Sun Dome.