TAMPA — It was perhaps the most dazzling first-half performance ever staged by an opposing player at the USF Sun Dome — and Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart punctuated it with a 65-foot heave that drew nothing but net at the buzzer.
And the scary part?
Smart wasn't even Oklahoma State's most impressive performer on Monday night.
Led by 25 points each from Markel Brown and Smart, the No. 5-ranked Cowboys smashed the University of South Florida Bulls 93-67 before 6,240 fans.
It tied for the most points allowed in regulation by a Stan Heath-coached USF team and was the most permitted in a USF home loss since Memphis prevailed 100-89 on Feb. 7, 2004. USF dropped to 2-44 overall against top-10 competition (1-21 at home).
Smart, a unanimous preseason All-American, had 23 first-half points for the Cowboys (5-0) and only took three shots the rest of the way. But Brown, a senior guard, was an even bigger story. Working some at point guard because of the suspension of freshman Stevie Clark, Brown's 25 points were complemented by eight rebounds, seven assists, three blocked shots, two steals, 5-for-6 shooting from 3-point range — and no turnovers.
“He had one of the best games from an individual I've seen in a long time,'' said Cowboys coach Travis Ford, whose team placed five players in double figures, while shooting 50 percent from the field and 56.3 percent from 3-point range.
Heath agreed with that assessment.
“I was concerned about focusing a lot of attention on Marcus Smart while knowing that several other of their guys are very, very good,'' said Heath, whose Bulls (4-1) shot 39 percent from the field. “Markel Brown is one of the more underrated players in the country. He really shot the lights out. We couldn't rattle him.
“They're not a one-man team. (Smart) is a great player, arguably the best player in the country. But they have a lot more players with him. They looked like a team in mid- to late-season form. They're firing on a lot of cylinders.''
Smart's three-quarter-court shot caused USF's shoulders to slump.
“That was a little bit of a backbreaker,'' Heath said. “His last two first halves were as good as any I've ever seen. He did what he wanted to do. That guy is a pro, a flat-out pro. How the heck he came back to school, I have no idea. That's what you're watching out there, an NBA guard.''
Heath said the Bulls were bothered by Oklahoma State's quick hands and active defense. The Cowboys had 11 steals. USF's normally unflappable point guard, Anthony Collins, committed six turnovers and had the ball taken away clean two times.
For USF, the most encouraging sign was the play of freshman big men John Egbunu (15 points, eight rebounds, two blocked shots) and Chris Perry (10 points, four rebounds). Heath promised a renewed emphasis on post play heading into Saturday night's game against Detroit.
“We have to get them the ball more often,'' Heath said. “Maybe that's one way to keep us from being too stagnant (and individualistic). … I still like our team a lot. That hasn't changed. I think we just got beat by a better team.''
OKLAHOMA ST. (5-0) — Nash 6-8 3-4 15, Williams 5-9 3-5 13, Cobbins 1-4 0-0 2, Brown 9-15 2-2 25, Smart 8-16 8-11 25, Stuen 0-1 0-0 0, Forte 3-7 2-2 11, Soucek 0-0 0-0 0, Sager 0-1 0-0 0, Murphy 0-3 0-0 0, Hammonds 1-1 0-0 2, Gaskins 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 33-66 18-24 93.
SOUTH FLORIDA (4-1) — Rudd 6-14 1-1 14, Egbunu 5-7 5-5 15, Brock 3-7 2-2 9, Allen Jr. 2-9 3-4 7, Collins 1-5 0-0 3, Abdul-Aleem 1-3 0-0 3, LeDay 0-2 2-2 2, McLendon 0-1 0-0 0, Hawkins 1-5 1-2 4, Perry 4-6 2-5 10, Omogbehin 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-59 16-21 67.
Halftime—Oklahoma St. 51-35. 3-Point Goals—Oklahoma St. 9-16 (Brown 5-6, Forte 3-5, Smart 1-5), South Florida 5-18 (Collins 1-2, Brock 1-2, Abdul-Aleem 1-3, Hawkins 1-3, Rudd 1-4, LeDay 0-1, Allen Jr. 0-3). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Oklahoma St. 40 (Brown 8), South Florida 37 (Allen Jr. 10). Assists—Oklahoma St. 15 (Brown 7), South Florida 9 (Collins 5). Total Fouls—Oklahoma St. 19, South Florida 21. Technical—Egbunu. A—6,240.