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February 16, 2013

Smart leads Pokes past OU in overtime

STILLWATER -- Students and fans stormed the court. Players were held high on the shoulders of fans, and the head coach addressed the masses. It could've happen last week in Lloyd Noble when the Sooners' felt the rush of an underdog's win at home, but it wasn't their turn to celebrate.

HD: Smart leads Pokes past OU in OT

No. 17 Oklahoma State fought back in Gallagher-Iba Arena to earn an 84-79 win against the Sooners, and that was cause to rejoice for the Pokes' fans.
History was in the Sooners' favor. They've dominated their rivalry with their Bedlam brethren, but not Saturday.

The Pokes boasted a freshman point guard who could be drafted in the first round this season, the top 5 even, if you believe the hype. And Marcus Smart was giving everyone reason to believe the hype this season.

"They gave us a nice little run, and we just kept fighting back," Smart said.

Before he walked into the arena, he'd already amassed more steals than Kevin Durant did during his entire freshman season at Texas and led the Pokes past the likes of a top 5 Kansas team at Allen Fieldhouse.

Four NBA teams -- Indiana Pacers, Orlando Magic, Toronto Raptors and Utah Jazz -- were on hand to find out what many already knew about Smart. But he still had one thing left to do: Beat the Sooners.

It took overtime, and it took yeoman's work from Smart, who scored 28 points, grabbed seven boards, dropped four dimes and collected two steals on the Sooners in 40 minutes, but he got it done.

"He's been terrific all season," Oklahoma men's basketball coach Lon Kruger said of Smart. "Terrific again today. He just affects the game in so many ways. He can score obviously, but he's in the middle of everything."

Though the Sooners hampered Smart with double-teams, he scored nine points in the first half and led the Pokes to a 19-8 lead against the Sooners with 11:50 left in the half, but Oklahoma battled back -- with buckets.

The Sooners mounted a 27-8 scoring run to end the first 20 minutes with a 35-27 lead over OSU. Senior point guard Sam Grooms led OU with eight points on 4-of-5 shooting in the half as he settled Oklahoma offensively after a terrible start. Senior forward Romero Osby and junior Cameron Clark also combined for 14 of Oklahoma's 23 rebound in the half.

Osby and senior 2-guard Steven Pledger ended the game with 18 points each, while freshman Je'lon Hornbeak scored an additional 10 points.

"We played against a great OU team today," Smart said.

OU extended its lead to 40-30 with 18:36 left in the game. That was as far away from the Pokes as it would get.

OSU fed off of the raucous sellout crowd and followed Smart and Le'Bryan Nash's lead to claw back into the game. Nash ended the game with 26 points on 9-of-18 shooting in 34 minutes.

His rim assault with 2:19 left to play in overtime tied the game at 75-75 and effectively swayed any momentum the Sooners had recouped at the end of regulation back to the Pokes, while Grooms might've played the best game of his career in the loss.

He scored a career-high 18 points on 9-of-11 shooting and added four assists and two turnovers he'd love to have back. OSU had managed to gain an 82-79 lead when Grooms in explicably turned the ball over to Markel Brown on the half court line.

"As far as the last couple plays, I don't think there's no way to explain it," Grooms said. "I lost the basketball. I turned it over."

Selection Sunday is 28 days away, but if it ended today, Kruger would be right to feel good about his team's chances to make the Big Dance.

"We're not at all concerned about it," Kruger said. "If selection was today, we might have some feelings about that and feel pretty good about it. Our guys have done a great job."

No, this loss shouldn't doom OU's season. The Sooners are past that phase and will play six games against teams in the bottom half of the Big 12 standings to close the season.

Anything less than an NCAA tournament appearance for OU this might be viewed as an opportunity -- squandered.

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