Phil Forte

Oklahoma State upsets No. 2 Kansas 85-80

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Markel Brown scored 22 of his 28 points in the first half, and Marcus Smart added 25 points, nine boards and five steals, taking the game over in crunch time, as Oklahoma State upset No. 2 Kansas 85-80.

The Cowboys had a 14 point lead early in the first half, but the Jayhawks slowly but surely trimmed that deficit throughout the first 20 minutes. Kansas took the lead in the second half, but the Pokes wouldn’t let the Jayhawks pull away. The clincher was a game-deciding, 13-2 run that Oklahoma State used to take a 75-68 lead with just 1:12 left. Smart was the facilitator of that run, starting it by finding Phil Forte for a three-ball and finishing it with a pair of jumpers and two free throws.

It played into every single story that we’ve heard about Smart this season. He’s a defender. He’s a winner. He will do whatever it takes to win a game.

And that may never be more obvious that it was on Saturday afternoon.

(Before I go any further praising Smart, you need to get an idea of just how impressive this win was. Kansas had won 102 of their last 103 games at Phog Allen. The one loss? The game that was played against Texas the day after Thomas Robinson’s mother passed away. Oklahoma State hadn’t won in Lawrence since 1989. They hadn’t beaten a team ranked in the top two nationally since 1958. And Kansas had won 18 straight games this season, the longest streak in the country.

Now, back to Marcus Smart.)

He scored off of steals he created. His teammates scored off of his assists. He gave Oklahoma State a three-point lead with 2:19 left on the clock when he scored off of an offensive rebound he grabbed on a missed free throw by Brown. After getting a steal at the other end of the floor, he scored off of an offensive rebound he grabbed when Michael Cobbins missed a jumper.

After hitting five-of-six from the free throw line in the final minutes, Smart eventually made the game-saving play. He stripped Elijah Johnson as he tried to cross him over with the score 83-80 and just five seconds left on the clock.

 

What made Smart’s performance all the more impressive is that he did it after Kansas seemed to gain control of the game.

The Jayhawks have done this before. They struggle to find a rhythm, they let a lesser team hang around and then they turn it on and put the game away. And it looked like they were going to do just that on Saturday afternoon.

Until Marcus Smart showed up.

It must be noted that in addition to moving to 5-3 in the Big 12, Oklahoma State notches one of the most impressive wins of the season under their belt. It’s enough that the Cowboys should be able to lock up an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament so long as they beat the teams they are supposed to beat down the stretch of the season.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

No. 14 West Virginia takes care of No. 15 Baylor

West Virginia forward Devin Williams (41) dunks the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor, Saturday, Feb, 6, 2016, in Morgantown, W.Va. (AP Photo/Raymond Thompson)
AP Photo/Raymond Thompson
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Not exactly noted for their ability to knock down shots from the perimeter, No. 14 West Virginia grabbed sole possession of first place in the Big 12 thanks in part to their perimeter shooting. The Mountaineers shot 7-for-14 from three and 49.1 percent from the field in a 80-69 win over No. 15 Baylor that wasn’t as close as the final margin would lead one to believe.

Bob Huggins’ team led by as much as 19 in the second half, and the way in which they did it is what makes the win so impressive. “Press Virginia” yielded just ten Baylor turnovers, but that low number didn’t matter much thanks to West Virginia’s execution offensively.

They found quality looks against Baylor’s 1-1-3 zone in the first half and made them at a good clip, forcing Scott Drew to switch to man-to-man. That change didn’t do much to slow down West Virginia either, as Daxter Miles Jr. scored 20 points and sixth man Jaysean Paige added 17 off the bench. And with Devin Williams chipping in with 16 points and seven boards in the post, outplaying Baylor’s Rico Gathers Sr. (five points, seven rebounds), West Virginia grabbed control of the game in the first half and did not relinquish it.

The usual formula for West Virginia offensively is to attack the offensive glass, as their offensive rebounding percentage (43 percent) is tops in the country. “Their best offense is a missed shot” is a familiar refrain heard when people discuss the Mountaineers, who entered the game shooting just over 30 percent from three.

They didn’t need to lean on those second chances as heavily as they normally do Saturday night, not only because of the improved accuracy but also the improved work in finding shots. The ball moved against the Baylor defense and so did the players, resulting in an offensive attack that proved tougher for the visiting Bears to stop that one would expect given the statistics entering the game.

West Virginia was already established as a contender in the Big 12, but thanks to their win Saturday night the Mountaineers are the current pace setters. With a showdown at No. 7 Kansas set for Tuesday night, this was a big win for Bob Huggins’ team to get. And with it coming in spite of a low turnover (forced) count, this should only help West Virginia in the confidence department moving forward.

No. 22 Indiana falls at Penn State

Penn State's Shep Garner (33) moves towards the basket during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Indiana in State College, Pa., Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Ralph Wilson)
(AP Photo/Ralph Wilson)
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Brendan Taylor scored 24 points to lead Penn State to a 68-63 upset of No. 22 Indiana on Saturday night.

The Nittany Lions were 2-8 in Big Ten play entering the weekend. Indiana? They were 9-1 and tied for first in the conference. It’s the second loss in four games for the Hoosiers following a 7-0 start to Big Ten play, a fact made all the more concerning by the fact that their league schedule is finally about to get difficult.

The Hoosiers play No. 5 Iowa at home and No. 10 Michigan State in East Lansing next week. The following week they get No. 18 Purdue at home. In the final week of the regular season, Indiana squares off with No. 5 Iowa on the road and close the regular season with a visit from No. 4 Maryland.

That’s a lot of good teams that the Hoosiers to close out the year.

The question has been asked since Indiana’s hot start to league play: Are they for real? Did the Hoosiers really somehow turn things around defensively, or was that winning streak simply a by-product of their schedule?

The truth is that it was probably a combination of both. Calling them a fraud would be unjust — if you watched those games, there wasn’t much fluky about them; Indiana earned the Ws — but it does seem fair to say this is something of a regression to the mean.

They were going to slip up eventually.

And it will totally be forgotten if the Hoosiers can find a way to close the regular season with a winning record in their final seven games.