STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — In a matchup of Top 15 teams, with a national audience watching, Marcus Smart picked the perfect time to launch a National Player of the Year campaign.
OSU's All American point guard scored a career-high 39 points as the Cowboys mauled 11th-ranked Memphis, 101-80.
Smart played up to the competition in the Cowboys' return to the national spotlight after last season's crushing loss against Oregon in the NCAA tournament.
"We just wanted to show everybody that we weren't backing down, and that's what we did tonight," Smart said.
In front of Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant, a host of NBA scouts and Thunder coach Scott Brooks, Smart scored 12 of the Cowboys' first 14 points. His last basket during the opening stretch was a dunk on the break that put Oklahoma State ahead 14-7.
The Tigers did their best to stay close, rallying to tie it at 16 after back-to-back baskets by King, but they had no answer for Smart in the first half.
"Oklahoma State, they just kicked our butt," Pastner said.
"When (Smart) scores like that, he could be the best player in college basketball."
With the Cowboys up 17-16, the 6-foot-4 guard went on a one-man scoring binge that worked the crowd into a frenzy.
Smart scored the next 12 points for Oklahoma State — including three 3-pointers and a trio of free throws after he was fouled on a 3-point attempt — to put the Cowboys up 29-20. In all, he scored 24 of Oklahoma State's first 29 points.
"That's just Marcus," Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said. "He's going to be ready when he needs to be ready. ... I knew he was going to be ready to play, I knew that from the beginning.
"I didn't know he was going to go out there and get 39. That's not always what we need from him, but we'll take it."
The Cowboys led 50-32 at halftime and stretched their lead to as many as 34 points in the second half — comfortably answering their first challenge of the season and reminding the country why Smart was a consensus preseason All-American.
Smart's fifth 3-pointer lifted Oklahoma State to a 64-43 advantage, giving him a career-best 31 points.
"I was just feeling it tonight," Smart said. "My teammates found me and gave me the ball at times when I needed it in order to get my shot off."
Memphis had just one game to prepare for a difficult test at No. 7 Oklahoma State.
The result was an ugly one.
Nick King had 23 points but the 11th-ranked Tigers were unable to contain Marcus Smart and lost 101-80 to the Cowboys on Tuesday night.
Shaq Goodwin scored 13 points for Memphis (1-1), which shot 41.2 percent (28 of 68) from the floor — including a combined 2-of-20 performance from senior guards Michael Dixon Jr. and Geron Johnson.
Fellow seniors Joe Jackson and Chris Crawford didn't fare much better, finishing a combined 6 of 14 from the floor — leaving Memphis coach Josh Pastner to face questions about whether the Tigers should have played more games before such a difficult matchup.
"The reason we scheduled it was because of who we had in our personnel," Pastner said. "This was an opportunity to see where we were at, and I didn't not see our four senior guards come out and play like that.
"I didn't see it coming."
The Tigers had played just once before the trip to Stillwater, a 95-69 home win over Austin Peay. And they appeared to be ill prepared for their first hostile road environment.
More specifically, they weren't prepared for Smart, who scored 26 of his career-high 39 points in the first half. He also had five steals, four rebounds, four assists and a pair of blocks in an outstanding all-around performance.
"Oklahoma State was just the better team tonight," Dixon Jr. said.
"Our apologies for not playing Memphis basketball; we just couldn't make shots."
Markel Brown added 20 points and Brian Williams had 15 for Oklahoma State, which is averaging 102 points per game.
Surprisingly, Smart didn't even enter the game as the leading scorer for the Cowboys.
In fact, the sophomore was third on Oklahoma State — behind sixth-man Phil Forte and Brown — with an average of 13.7 points through the team's opening three blowout victories.