On Saturday in Big 12 men’s basketball, the stat lines were the story lines.
The reigning Big 12 Player of the Year, Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, was anything but at Texas Tech on Saturday. It didn’t seem to matter, though, as the Red Raiders sent the Big 12 preseason co-favorite Cowboys to the mat and stumbling to their third consecutive loss. Meanwhile, Kansas State emphatically terminated Texas’ seven-game conference winning streak, crushing the 15th-ranked Longhorns by 17 points. And at Iowa State, senior Melvin Ejim had a field day, pouring in a career-high 48 points in almost single-handidly destroying visiting TCU.
By now, you probably have read or heard about Smart charging into the stands to shove a Texas Tech fan after allegedly being taunted with the “N” word very late in the Cowboys game with the Red Raiders. Smart was allowed to remain in the game, primarily because there is no precedent in the Big 12 rules that calls for an immediate ejection or any other action on the officials’ part when something like that takes place but also, most likely, because there was under a minute remaining in the game.
This is actually the second time in less than a month that the Oklahoma State star has physically lost his cool in a game. He was seen kicking a chair on the bench and pumping his arms in anger at the end of another game last mongh in which he performed poorly and fouled out.
The fan Smart went after was not just any fan, it turned out. He is a regular at all the Red Raider games, home and away. In fact, Texas Tech affectionately refers to him as “Super Fan.” Exactly how the Big 12 will deal with this clearly unaceptable conduct remains to be seen, but there is a good chance Smart may be asked to sit out one or more games, which would be very unfortunate given that OSU is struggling so badly over the last week and a half.
Getting back to the happier headlines from an incredible weekend of basketball in the Big 12, Texas Tech’s 65-61 win over Oklahoma State leaves the Red Raiders tied with the Cowboys for seveth place in the conference standings with identical 4-6 records in Big 12 games. The Red Raiders have now defeated two AP top-25 teams this season, and their four conference wins is the most since they won five league games in 2011.
Two Big 12 players were utterly unstoppable from the field on Saturday. Iowa State’s Ejim made 20 out of 24 field-goal tries and had the 15,000 partisans at Hilton Coliseum out of their minds and continually out of their seats on Saturday. Ejim’s 48 points set a new Big 12 single-game scoring record and was just 21 points shy of TCU’s team total for the game.
Kansas State freshman guard Marcus Foster was just as possessed as Ejim was for Iowa State. Foster was 13 of 16 from the field, including five of eight beyond the three-point line. His 34 points, a career high, makes him only the third freshman in K-State history to score 30 or more points in a game. Michael Beasley and Mike Evans are the other two. The Wildcats, now 6-4 in the conference and tied for fourth place with Iowa State, were all over Texas from the very beginning, barely giving the Longhorns a chance to breathe.
K-State led by 20 at the half and stretched that out to a 26-point margin in the second half before Texas cut into the lead late and long after the game was already well in hand. Texas dropped to 7-3 in Big 12 play and 18-5 overall, tied with Kansas and Oklahoma for the most wins overall.
West Virginia came into Allen Fieldhouse with a relatively three-game winning streak after successive victories over Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma, all teams that are or have been ranked this season. The problem is: Kansas is where winning streaks go to die. The league-leading Jayhawks (9-1, 18-5) were in command most of the way against the Mountaineers on Saturday, but they had a difficult time shaking off the mountain men until very late in the contest. Kansas was led by its super-freshmen trio of Andrew Wiggins (19), Wayne Selden (17) and Joel Embiid (11), who combined for 47 of the Jayhawks’ 83 points.
In Norman Saturday night, No. 21 Oklahoma was shooting for a season sweep against Baylor. OU sophomore shooting-guard Buddy Hield and senior Cameron Clark scored the Sooners first 23 points in the game as Oklahoma opened up a 12-point advantage in the first 10 minutes of the game. Hield scored 17 of his 19 points for the game in the opening half. He did almost the exact opposite in the first game between the two teams at Baylor (won by OU 66-64), scoring all 19 of his points in the second half. Clark ended with 16 points
It was another sophomore who took over the game for OU in the second half. Isaiah Cousins had a career-high 21 points for the Sooners, leading his team to an 88-72 victory. Cousins was three of four from beyond the three-point arc. but tallied the bulk of his points on penetrating dribble drives to the basket. Clark ended with 16 points in the game.
Seven-foot sophomore Isaiah Austin led the Bears, who have now lost seven of their last eight games and fallen to just 2-8 in the conference. This for a team that in early January was ranked No. 7 in the country with a record of 13-1.
Oklahoma shot a sizzling 64 percent from the field in the first half and finished with a season-high 54 percent shooting. The Sooners have exceeded 80 points 16 times in their 24 games this season. They scored 80 or more points just seven times all of last season.