In preparing his Oklahoma State team to face Texas, coach Travis Ford focused so much on stopping Myck Kabongo that he worried Saturday that he might have been too dismissive of how good his teammates were, too.
It turned out his emphasis on Kabongo was the farthest thing from overkill.
Markel Brown scored 18 points, Le’Bryan Nash added 16 and the 15th-ranked Cowboys corralled Kabongo to beat Texas 78-65.
A showcase of two of the Big 12’s marquee point guards ended up being a sloppy one, with Kabongo committing a career-high seven turnovers while the Cowboys’ Marcus Smart had five.
“We put a big emphasis on slowing him down,” Ford said. “Their last five games that he’s played in, that ball’s been in his hands 90 percent of the time. We thought he was a pretty big key to their team.”
Oklahoma State (22-6, 12-4 Big 12) took advantage of two of Kabongo’s turnovers to score the final eight points of the first half and start an 18-2 run that carried beyond halftime. By the time it was over, the Cowboys were firmly in front at 47-33 after Nash drove through traffic for a right-handed slam.
Texas (13-16, 5-11) never got within 10 points after that.
In the first 16 minutes, Smart didn’t score and committed all five of his turnovers. He played a clean game after that, ending up with 11 points, four steals and three assists.
“You can always count on him coming back and doing something positive,” Ford said. “His stat line is always amazing. He always ends up with great stats. ... It doesn’t overly concern me because I know we’re going to get something out of him. But when he’s locked in from the beginning, it obviously makes our team that much better.”
The Cowboys sent two defenders at Kabongo at every chance, forcing him into mistakes or simply getting the ball out of the hands of Texas’ top scorer. The Longhorns had won three of five after Kabongo returned from a 23-game NCAA suspension, and he had a career-best 31 points in the win against Oklahoma in his last game.
Kabongo ended up with a season-low seven points and eight assists, missing five of his seven shots.
“I don’t know why Myck wasn’t doing the things we asked him to do,” coach Rick Barnes said. “We knew that would happen. We had three guys out there that played the point, four really.
“I think Myck got caught up in it a little bit, trying to do it too much by himself.”
Julien Lewis returned after missing the last game with a concussion and led Texas with 15 points, hitting four of 11 from 3-point range. Javan Felix scored 13 points.
Barnes decided to play his second-leading scorer, Sheldon McClellan, just 7 minutes. He did not score.
“We know our guys. We know when they’re engaged, we know when they’re focused and that’s what we base it on,” Barnes said. “I think those guys will tell you if they’re doing what we want them to do, they can make mistakes. We don’t expect them to be perfect. What we want: We want guys engaged.
“We’re around these guys every day of the year almost. We know when they’re focused, like Myck had a tough day today and he fought it. He was trying to do it, maybe do too much.”
The Longhorns tried to deploy their full-court press, but couldn’t duplicate their comeback from a 22-point deficit in the final 8 minutes of regulation in an overtime win against Oklahoma on Wednesday night.
Oklahoma State was able to handle the pressure without much trouble, using it to create easy scoring chances.
Phil Forte grabbed a press-breaking outlet pass and hit an open 3-pointer from the left wing, and Brown converted a three-point play on the Cowboys’ next possession after getting a high-arcing runner to go over the corner of the backboard and fall in. His ensuing free throw stretched the lead to 65-46 with 7:31 remaining.
“Everybody wants to know why you don’t press all the time. Well, certain teams obviously handle pressure more than other teams,” Barnes said. “We don’t want to have to get behind and scramble all the time.”
The Cowboys also returned the favor with their own trapping pressure in the half court, and both teams wound up with 18 turnovers.
“We love doing pressure, especially when we go to four guards with me at the four position,” Nash said. “We love pressing guys. I think we’re the most athletic team in the Big 12, so we have to show it sometimes by pressing.
“We love to turn people over and convert it into easy baskets. When you’re doing that, it just makes your job more easy on offense.”
Forte ended up with 14 points as Oklahoma State swept the regular-season series against Texas for the first time since 2004. The Cowboys had lost 11 of 12 to the Longhorns before winning three straight.