Marcus Smart has been a man among boys in his sophomore campaign for the Oklahoma State Cowboys. He has been virtually untouchable all season long, and the Purdue Boilermakers decided to put an end to that. The strategy from the opening tip for Purdue was to get physical with Smart.
In theory, being physical with Smart is an excellent idea. Smart entered the Old Spice Classic shooting 69 percent from the charity stripe; his Achilles heel. Initially, this strategy did not appear to work well for Purdue.
Sensing the close defense, Smart attacked the rim at will. The Cowboys drew 16 fouls in the first half and bullied their way out to a 52-29 halftime lead. Smart was able to take 10 free throws in the first half, with four of his attempts coming from being fouled on three-point jump shots. Six of his 24 first-half points came at the free throw line.
Then the physical play wore on Smart and he lost his composure. The Boilermakers kept up their physicality on Smart until he finally retaliated. Midway through the second half, Smart was called for his third foul. Smart was fronting a post player, and the post player for Purdue had Smart wrapped around by his throat. He voiced his displeasure in the call, and was given a technical foul.
The outcome of the game was never in doubt, although Purdue was able to make a big run late to make the game a respectable 97-87 final score. That being said, Purdue is a couple years away from being competitive in the Big 10. In a tightly-contested matchup with a team that can match the physicality of Purdue, Oklahoma State could be in trouble. In Purdue’s attempt to derail Smart by making him shoot free throws, Purdue discovered yet another weakness of Smart’s; he’s kind of a hot-head.
Smart takes the court every game knowing that he is the best player out there. When newcomer Andrew Wiggins received preseason accolades in the Big 12, Smart was the first to call out the young Kansas Jayhawk for not accomplishing anything. Against South Florida Smart drilled a 60-foot three-pointer to end the half, and proceeded to run his gums afterwards. In the first half against Purdue, Smart was fouled on a three-point make and showed up his opponent following the make.
After the technical foul, head coach Travis Ford saw an opportunity to teach his budding star a lesson by leaving him on the bench until the three-minute mark of the second half. In a utopian situation, Ford would have been content to leave Smart on the bench. In Smart’s absence, Ford saw his team’s 20-point lead vanish. Purdue managed to whittle the lead away to four before Smart reentered the fray. The final three minutes of the contest were too small of a sample size to determine whether or not Smart learned his lesson on the bench.
Even in a game where he spent a large portion of the game on the bench, Smart tied a tournament record for points scored with 30 points. It is hard to find flaws in a player as talented as Smart, but it took a pesky Purdue squad to prove that even Smart is human.