Markel Brown

Oklahoma State v Kansas

Does No. 8 Oklahoma State have an issue with foul trouble?

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Kansas is the best team in the Big 12. They are far and away the favorite to win the conference at this point in the season, and it’s not really debatable as they are currently sitting two games in front of everyone else in the league.

What’s surprising about that statement is that Oklahoma State isn’t actually involved in that conversation. Heading into the season, the expectation was that this league would be decided by the Pokes and the Jayhawks, and that it may come down to that final battle between the two on March 1st.

As we round the corner of January and head into February, the No. 8 Cowboys in a tie with Kansas State for fourth in the league, a full three games behind the Jayhawks, after Monday night’s 88-76 loss to No. 23 Oklahoma, and it’s quickly becoming clear that Travis Ford’s team is just another team fighting for second place.

As a result, it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that the Cowboys lost their tenth straight Bedlam road game.

Because that’s just the way that it works in this league this year.

For all intents and purposes, the difference between the five teams currently sitting within a game of second place — Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Kansas State and Iowa State — is negligible. The respective rankings my throw you for a loop, but you should more or less expect Oklahoma to hold serve on their home court against Oklahoma State at this point, the same way you should expect Kansas State to lose at Iowa State or Texas to get dropped in Stillwater.

And vice versa.

For Oklahoma State, things are going to remain that way unless a couple of things change. Ironically enough, the biggest issue for this team isn’t the loss of Michael Cobbins. It hurts their depth inside, but Oklahoma State’s rebounding numbers are actually slightly better in Big 12 play than they were in non-conference play with Cobbins healthy.

What’s hurting the Pokes more than anything is foul trouble. On Monday, Le’Bryan Nash fouled out and Marcus Smart had four fouls. On Saturday, Nash and Smart both fouled out in the win over West Virginia. Last Saturday, in the loss at Kansas, Markel Brown fouled out and Nash had four fouls.

The issue isn’t just the disqualifications. It’s the fact that, when they’re in foul trouble, they sit the bench, taking themselves and the team out of a rhythm and, quite often, digging early holes.

Foul trouble isn’t the be-all and end-all of their issues — Smart and Brown settle for too many jumpers, they don’t get Nash enough touches on the block, too often their offense devolves into isolations — but it sure would help to have

POSTERIZED: Oklahoma State’s Markel Brown with the 360 (VIDEO)

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Oklahoma State guard Markel Brown didn’t have the best afternoon from a shooting standpoint, as he made just five of his 13 attempts from the field in the 11th-ranked Cowboys’ 81-75 home win over West Virginia. But he did provide the highlight of the game, throwing down a 360-degree dunk to tie the game at 48 with 13:58 remaining.

Brown finished the game with 15 points and ten rebounds, and while he and Marcus Smart (1-for-7 FG, four points) struggled offensively Le’Bryan Nash picked up the slack. Nash led five Cowboys in double figures with 29 points to go along with nine rebounds before fouling out late.

Did those technical fouls cost No. 9 Oklahoma State a win at No. 15 Kansas?

Oklahoma State v Kansas
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It’s hard not to come away from No. 9 Oklahoma State’s 80-78 loss to No. 15 Kansas incredibly impressed with the way that the Jayhawks are progressing this season.

I wrote all about it here.

But it’s also difficult to watch that game and have anything other than respect for the Pokes.

Oklahoma State was down 14 points midway through the first half. They were down 17 points at the break. Marcus Smart didn’t make a field goal until there was 6:01 left in the game, and that came after the Pokes had cut that 17 point lead to three and seen the Jayhawks push it right back up to 11. And despite all of that, Oklahoma State still had the ball with 5.4 seconds left and a chance to either tie or win the game.

I’d say that’s a pretty impressive performance.

And it makes you wonder: what would’ve happened if Oklahoma State had been able to keep their composure throughout the game?

It started midway through the first half, when Markel Brown didn’t hear the whistle for a timeout and ran into Jamari Traylor, throwing out an elbow in the process and nearly providing the spark for an ugly, ugly scene in Phog Allen. Double technicals were given out for that little brouhaha. Two minutes later, after Smart went crashing to the ground on a drive to the basket, Stevie Clark picked up a technical for pushing Wayne Selden, who was straddling Smart on the ground. Le’Bryan Nash came dangerously close to picking up a technical, which would have been his fifth foul, about three minutes before Brown picked up his second technical foul arguing a call.

Stating the obvious: take away the foul shots that Kansas made after those technicals and Oklahoma State wins.

I know, it doesn’t actually work that way.

But you have to think head coach Travis Ford would have loved to have Brown on the floor on the final possession, when Nash was unable to get off a final shot. Or maybe have him on the court for that second-to-last possession, when Oklahoma State ran 30 seconds off the clock before Phil Forte his a three with 7.8 seconds remaining. Maybe his presence on the floor defensively helps the Pokes get an extra stop.

Oklahoma State cannot let their emotions get the best of them.

Losing Michael Cobbins made an already-thin front line that much more of a liability. They no longer have that margin for error.

Slumping Markel Brown hits game-winner, No. 11 Oklahoma State survives West Virginia

Markel Brown, Demarcus Holland
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It’s been 25 days since Markel Brown made a three-pointer.

Seriously.

The last time that he hit a jump shot from beyond the arc, you still had more than a week to buy your mom that last-minute Christmas present that you hadn’t thought of yet. It was five games ago when Brown hit that three in a blowout win over Delaware State, but his shooting slump extends much further than that.

Five games into the season, Brown was shooting 15-for-29 from beyond the arc, but entering the final possession of No. 11 Oklahoma State’s visit to West Virginia on Saturday afternoon, Brown had shot 3-for-25 from three in 11 games since then.

But it didn’t matter on that final possession, as Marcus Smart broke down the Mountaineer defense and found Brown all alone on the wing. He buried a three to put the Pokes up 73-72 with 11 seconds left, and after WVU missed a couple chances at a game-winning bucket, Oklahoma State left Morgantown with a win.

It goes without saying, Oklahoma State needs Brown to bust out of this slump that he’s been mired in.

With Michael Cobbins done for the year with an achilles injury, Oklahoma State is suddenly short-handed, especially in the front court. They need Brown to be a scorer. They need him to be a threat to spread the floor, to help create some space for Marcus Smart to operate going to the rim.

Brown finished with 12 points and seven boards. Smart had 22 points, 13 boards and five assists. Le’Bryan Nash chipped in with 18 points as well.

As far as West Virginia is concerned, Juwan Staten is a guy to keep an eye on. The Dayton transfer finished with 20 points, eight assists, five boards and three steals while shooting 7-for-10 from the floor. He’s probably not on the same level as Smart or Iowa State’s Deandre Kane, but he’s one of the nation’s most underrated point guards.

Markel Brown, rebounding keys for No. 7 Oklahoma State moving forward

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LAS VEGAS, Nev. — When Marcus Smart, Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash all announced that they would be returning to Stillwater for another season, Oklahoma State fans immediately began to think championship thoughts. Oklahoma State hasn’t won the Big 12 regular season title since 2004, and their last Big 12 tournament title came in 2005, so it’s safe to say that the program is hungry for another championship.

In their 78-73 win over No. 20 Colorado on Saturday night, it was a group effort that led the Cowboys to their 11th win of the season. Brown scored 23 points, and with Michael Cobbins struggling mightily (two points, one rebound and five fouls) he also grabbed 11 rebounds to post his first double-double of the season.

Brown was one of four Cowboys to finish in double figures, with Smart (18 points), Phil Forte III (16) and Nash (15) being the others. Oklahoma State’s offensive balance was on full display in the second half as they shot 61.9% from the field and averaged 1.24 points per possession, doing a far better job of distributing the basketball. That isn’t about passing the ball around so much as it’s about finding guys in spots where they can be most successful.

“I didn’t like our offense in the first half. I kept telling our guys that we were our own worst enemy,” Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford said after the game. “Throwing the ball away, taking some tough shots…we’ll get the shot we want if we just be patient and get the ball to certain people in certain places. In the second half we did that. We got the ball to the right people in the right places, and good things happened.”

The chief beneficiary of this against Colorado was Brown, and in a game that featured two of the nation’s best point guards he stood out. Oklahoma State is the biggest threat to Kansas’ current run of nine straight (outright or shared) Big 12 regular season titles, with Markel Brown being one reason why. And with that has come the recognition that wasn’t always there.

“I think he used to be [overlooked]. I think now he has the reputation of being one of the better players in America,” noted Ford. “More people are realizing that he can score, defend and rebound, so I think everybody knows about him now.”

There are areas in which Oklahoma State needs to improve before the start of Big 12 play, with rebounding being one. On the season opponents are rebounding more than 32% of their missed shots, with Colorado corralling almost 43% of their misses on Saturday. That resulted in 21 second-chance points for the Buffaloes, keeping them afloat despite shooting 6-for-22 from beyond the arc.

And with the front courts that teams like Baylor, Kansas and Iowa State feature, how well Oklahoma State performs on the glass will determine their place in the Big 12 pecking order.

“Definitely rebounding,” Brown said when asked where the Cowboys need to improve. “It was big tonight, and it’s going to be big all through the Big 12. If we rebound and continue to get back and stop teams in transition, then we’ll be great.”

No. 5 Oklahoma State’s win over Purdue exemplifies issues with new foul rules

Marcus Smart
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Marcus Smart is building a nice little reputation for himself as the best first half player … ever?

Smart scored 24 of his 30 points in the first half of No. 5 Oklahoma State’s 97-87 win over Purdue, hitting 4-for-6 from three and adding four rebounds and four assists. The Pokes led by more than 20 for much of the game before Smart picked up a technical foul in the second half. It was his fourth, and in his absence the Boilermakers were able to cut the lead to 84-80 at one point.

Markel Brown, who finished with 25 points, played the role of closer, hitting a couple of big shots down the stretch, but the story of this game was the fouls.

60 were called in total. Five players in total fouled out, and that doesn’t include Jay Simpson, who was given a Flagrant 2 earlier in the game. Four more players finished the afternoon with four fouls. Smart’s technical? It came after he was called for a horrendous foul by Karl Hess while trying to guard Purdue center A.J. Hammons in the post. Here’s the video. Explain to me why this is a foul on Smart. Why was he guarding Hammons in the post? Because Oklahoma State big men Michael Cobbins and Kamari Murphy both were already in bad foul trouble.

Look, I understand why refs have been told to call games tighter, and I actually agree with the reasoning. Freedom of movement on the offensive end of the floor is a good thing. It makes the game more fun to watch and it brings a level skill back that has been missing. If we wanted to watch rugby, we’d move to Australia.

The problem is that there are times where the refs just get way too ambitious, and this game was a perfect example. Doug Gottlieb has been campaigning as much as anyone about how bad some of these whistles are, and he posted a couple of videos that make his case quite convincingly.

Tell me, where is the foul here? Or here? Or here?

The game needed to be freed up. It’s been turned into a mockery. This needs to be corrected.