Markel Brown was throwing down two-handed windmill dunks. Le'Bryan Nash was scoring in the lane with ease. Phil Forte was hitting open 3-pointers. And on a day where Marcus Smart was sloppy with the basketball, he still managed 11 points, 3 assists, 6 rebounds and 4 steals.
Brown led all scorers with 18 points, while adding 6 rebounds and 3 assists. Nash accounted for 16 points and a pair of steals.
It was the kind of performance that prepares a team for postseason play.
"Our press was pretty effective for most of the night, and I thought our overall defense was good," head coach Travis Ford said. "When we didn't turn the ball over, we defended them extremely well, especially in the second half. Offensively, we were very sloppy. We made some very good plays and made some big shots, but we never really got into a rhythm as far as running our offense. We forced a few things, but our defense was good for us, and our defense created some offense."
After going scoreless in the first half, the combination of Brian Williams and Michael Cobbins recorded 15 points. And although it doesn't necessarily show on the stat sheet, Kirby Gardner contributed seven solid minutes.
Brown, the most veteran of the Cowboys, recognizes the secret to OSU's recent success: players with established roles are playing up to their specific potential. And it doesn't have to begin and end with Smart.
"We know what guys can do and what they are capable of doing," Brown said. "Like little Phil (Forte), we know once we drive and he's open for a three that he's going to knock it down. Le'Bryan (Nash) has a really good post game, and he can also take big guys off the dribble. It's just little things like that, getting Marcus (Smart) into the post, knowing what our strengths and weaknesses are, playing against each other, competing and making each other better. So just going out there and putting all of those things together on the court is hard to stop."
With two regular season games left, the mantra remains the same – one game at a time. But that doesn't mean the Cowboys aren't a bit anxious to prove themselves on a regional and national stage.
"Everybody's pretty excited about it," Williams said. "There's a good buzz and a good vibe going around the team right now."
No. 15 Oklahoma State (22-6, 12-4): 78
Texas (13-16, 5-11): 65
In a nutshell:
The Longhorns were up early, behind a pair of Ioannis Papapetrou 3 pointers, 13-7, five minutes in. Six Cowboy turnovers led to easy buckets for UT. Le'Bryan Nash and Markel Brown provided the needed spark to keep it close. But the Cowboys wouldn't lead in this one until there was 5:53 left before the break, when Brown threw down a ridiculous windmill dunk, giving the Cowboys a 23-22 advantage. From there, it was a back-and-forth battle for the lead – highlighted by a barrage of 3-pointers from the Longhorns (5-10 in the first half.) But Phil Forte hit a 3-pointer with less than a minute remaining, and a struggling Marcus Smart hit and and-one layup to close the half. It was ugly – 20 combined turnovers – but OSU led 37-31.
OSU opened the half on an 8-2 run five minutes in to get up double-digits – and they never looked back. After going scoreless in the first half, Michael Cobbins and Brian Williams combined for 13 points before the midway point of the second half for an extra boost. Meanwhile, four Cowboys finished with double-digit scoring totals, including Phil Forte, who broke out of his recent shooting slump (14 points, 4-7 3PT.) The Longhorns never threatened, and OSU won easily, 78-65.
By the numbers:
7: Points by Texas point guard Myck Kabongo – who entered the game averaging more than 18 points per game
9: Made free throws by Markel Brown – on nine attempts.
4: Made 3-pointers by Phil Forte – tied for a game-high.
36: Combined turnovers from both teams.
1,000: Career points scored by Markel Brown – who hit the mark with a crazy behind-the-backboard floater.
2004: The last time OSU swept Texas on the hardwood.
Le'Bryan Nash clutched his left list while lying on the hardwood late in the second half. He didn't come out of the game for long, but it looked painful.
"I thought I had broke my wrist again," Nash said. "I was saying, 'Please don't do this again'. It was a sharp pain that kept coming. When the game kept moving the pain started going away so I knew it wasn't broke."
Late in the first half, Markel Brown threw down a two-handed windmill dunk to give OSU its first lead of the game.
"That was my No. 1 dunk right now," Brown said. "That's definitely the first time I've ever done that dunk in a game. I've been working on it lately in practice, so I've been waiting to pull that one out. I feel like it was a difficult dunk to do and to do it on a big stage and in front of a big crowd is exciting. My teammates have been telling me to do that dunk, and when I finally got the chance to do it, I did it. The dunk gave us the lead, it gave us a lot of momentum. The guys picked up the defensive intensity and the dunk got them fired up."
Brian Williams scored nine points – all of them in the second half – in the Cowboys' victory.
"I'm at 60 to 70 percent," Williams said. "I still have a lot of room for improvement. I'm getting more confidence in my shot. I feel like that West Virginia game helped me get a little more confident shooting the ball and making plays."
UP NEXT: Iowa State
The Cowboys travel to Ames to face the Cyclones (19-10, 9-7) at 6:00 p.m. Wednesday / TV: ESPNU / RADIO: KSPI 93.7 FM