Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

February 21, 2014

Smart set to return for Cowboys

STILLWATER — During his three-game suspension for shoving a spectator, Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart found himself in an odd and unwelcome position.

"It's been very, very interesting being away from my team, especially on the road and seeing them play on T.V.," he said. "It's kind of weird because I've never been a part of something where I had to watch a team that I'm on without me playing."

Smart won't be just cheering anymore. The preseason All-American has served his suspension for his incident with a Texas Tech fan and will return for Saturday's home game against the Red Raiders. He said he learned from his mistake and the consequences that followed.

"Everybody's responsible for their own actions," he said. "It's easy to point the finger at somebody else. But a real man, a real woman, a real person, knows when it's time to take the blame and when to take responsibility for their own actions. I take full responsibility for my own actions."

He also now understands that his actions will be scrutinized more than others, and that his status as an elite college athlete makes him a target.

"I've been in the news ever since my freshman year coming here, and I've had the spotlight on me for a long time," he said. "Everything we do is magnified times 100. It just comes with the territory."

Oklahoma State lost to Texas, Oklahoma and Baylor and averaged just 68.7 points while Smart sat out, well below the 82.8 it averages when he plays. His teammates are happy to see him back.

"It takes a lot of pressure off a lot of those guys in the locker room," said Markel Brown, who averaged 23.3 points in Smart's absence. "We're looking forward to having him back. He's been playing well in practice the last couple of days, making a lot of shots and he's been leading off the court a lot. A lot of great things from him so far."

Now, he needs to lead on the court. The Cowboys have lost seven straight and eight of nine after a 15-2 start and are in danger of missing the NCAA tournament. Two of the losses have come in overtime, and three others have come by six or fewer points. Texas Tech beat Oklahoma State 65-61 in Lubbock, Texas, on Feb. 8, the date of the shoving incident.

"We've got to finish our games," Smart said. "That's our biggest problem right now is finishing games. We've been in a little slump."

Smart returned for his sophomore season after many expected him to leave for the NBA, but this season hasn't gone as planned. Things started to unravel when post player Michael Cobbins went down for the season with a ruptured left Achilles tendon in late December, leaving the Cowboys without their rim protector and one of their best rebounders. Oklahoma State then kicked reserve guard Stevie Clark off the team earlier this month after his second arrest of 2014.

Smart's incident followed, leaving coach Travis Ford with little to work with.

"A lot of guys have been struggling," Smart said. "We've had some distractions, a lot of distractions. The distractions are over with, so hopefully, we can get back on track."

Smart's return will return Phil Forte to his role as a super sixth man. As a starter in all three games without Smart, Forte made just 13 of 36 field goals.

Oklahoma State played better and with improved intensity during the final two games of Smart's suspension. The Cowboys lost 77-74 to Oklahoma and 70-64 in overtime at Baylor. Smart said the team can build on the way it played in those final two games.

"We had a lot of guys step up, had a lot of guys play some key minutes that really don't play like Mason Cox and Christien Sager," Smart said. "Those guys came in and stepped up a lot."

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