continued his torrid start to the season with a dominant performance against Purdue. (AP)
Oklahoma State has looked invulnerable in its early-season run to 6-0. The Cowboys showed perhaps their first flaw in their 97-87 win over Purdue in the quarterfinals of the Old Spice Classic in Orlando.
Marcus Smart picked up four fouls in a one-minute stretch of the second half, forcing coach Travis Ford's hand. He benched Smart with 11:23 left and the Cowboys leading the Boilermakers 72-53. Smart sat until there were fewer than two minutes left in the game and watched as Purdue went on a 29-14 run, cutting the margin to four. Ford put Smart back in the game after a timeout, and he promptly made a driving layup, stretching the lead back to eight. Purdue wouldn't get any closer the rest of the game.
While the Cowboys kept their dreams alive in the holiday tournament at Disneyworld, they got a taste of what it will be like when Smart inevitably gets into foul trouble at some point again this season. They were able to hold on for the win on Thursday, but this was a game against a middling opponent on a neutral court in November. Doing the same against a Big 12 opponent like, say, Kansas, in the middle of February could be an entirely different story. Ford may take this as a silver lining, however, with his team getting its first Smart-less test Smart in a relatively meaningless November game.
Despite his late-game foul trouble, Smart finished with 30 points, four rebounds and four assists, and Markel Brown added 25 and six. Purdue, meanwhile, had four players in double-figures. Bryson Scott led the way with 18 points, though he shot just 5-15 from the floor.
Iowa posted one of the more impressive wins of the day, rallying back from a 15-point second-half deficit to beat Xavier 77-74 in overtime in the quarterfinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. Roy Devyn Marble scored 30 for the Hawkeyes, but missed the end of regulation and OT after suffering what looked like severe cramping in his right leg. The Musketeers held a 13-point lead with 12 minutes left, but two Marble threes sandwiched around a dunk by Adam White set Iowa up for its charge to force overtime.
The Hawkeyes are poised to compete in the Big Ten for the first time since the days of Greg Brunner and Adam Haluska, and these are the types of wins they'll need to come up with to hang with the likes of Michigan State, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio State. If that's going to happen, they'll need to clean up the ugly shooting that reappeared against Xavier. The Hawkeyes shot just 35.3 percent from the field, including 6-23 from three-point land. They missed 11 free throws, shooting 67.6 percent from the line. The caveats about small sample size apply, but they rank 86th in the country in field goal percentage. They can get away with that against a schedule that includes the University of Mary
land-Eastern Shore and Penn. They won't be able to do so when the daunting Big Ten slate begins.