Oklahoma State sophomore guard Marcus Smart was left wide open on the baseline halfway through the first half of the game Monday night and slammed an alley-oop that silenced the Sun Dome crowd.
When Smart landed, he slapped the floor violently with both hands and yelled.
Known for his ability to score, Smart and the No. 5 Cowboys (5-0) backed up the praise in a 93-67 defeat of the Bulls (4-1).
USF coach Stan Heath said he believes Smart belongs in the NBA already.
“That guy’s a pro,” he said. “He was a flat-out pro last year. How the heck he came back to school, I have no idea, but he did. That’s what you’re watching out there — an NBA guard.”
Smart and Cowboys senior forward Markel Brown were the highest scorers, both with 25 points. On the shoulders of Brown and Smart’s performances, the Cowboys handed the Bulls their first loss of the season.
Though the Bulls were 12-19 last season, Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said the defeat of this year’s USF squad was a quality win.
“I told our team we beat a good team tonight,” Ford said. “I got a lot of respect for this South Florida team. They’re going to win a lot of games. We’re happy with this victory because we beat a good team tonight.”
Coming into the contest, the Cowboys were ranked as the fifth team in the nation, but they were still cautious of the upset-minded Bulls. Ford voiced his concerns with the team coming off a blowout victory over No. 21 Memphis.
“I was concerned,” Ford said. “I was anxious to see how we’d play tonight.”
The Bulls gave a strong effort in the first 10 minutes of the game, even leading the game for spurts. The crowd of 6,240 with a packed student section, gave the Bulls enough momentum to stay close with the Cowboys until the final minutes of the first half. It took the Cowboys until 17 minutes into the game to lead by more than 12 points, but according to Ford, the game went according to plan for his team.
“I wanted to hang in there early,” he said. “I knew they were going to be excited to win the game. We just needed to hang in there and then we would go on our runs, and that’s what happened.”
In the second half, the Bulls were unable to cut the deficit to single digits and players pointed to the lack of USF offensive rebounding and forced turnovers by the Cowboys in the second half. Senior forward Victor Rudd keyed in on this in his explanation of why the Bulls couldn’t mount a second half comeback.
“Offensive rebounding and we turned the ball over at a high rate,” Rudd. “I think this was the most turnovers we’ve ever had.”
Despite the 26-point loss, the Bulls are using the game as a building point for the chemistry of the young team and the development of the freshmen big men.
“I thought our big guys did a nice job of becoming more focal points,” he said. “We probably should have used them a lot more.”
Oklahoma State took notice of the two freshmen, center John Egbunu and forward Chris Perry.
“They were really skilled,” Brown said. “They surprised me. They’re very physical, and they played hard. For some time to come, they’re going be great.”
The Bulls will host Detroit on Saturday in the Sun Dome at 7 p.m.