The frustration got the best of sophomore point guard Marcus Smart in the game’s closing seconds. Despite scoring a game-best 22 points while breaking out of a shoot slump during the losing streak, Smart will be remembered for losing his cool at the end of the game.
Smart fouled Tech’s Jaye Crockett as he was going up for a game-clinching layup with 6.2 seconds on the clock after OSU’s Le’Bryan Nash had turned the ball over with the Cowboys trailing 63-61. Smart landed on a television cameraman under the basket following the foul, but then as he was getting up he turned to say something to a Texas Tech fan. He then walked toward the fan and pushed him, drawing a technical foul.
Dusty Hannahs hit one of the two free throws from Smart’s technical foul, and then Crockett added another free throw to give the Red Raiders the 65-61 victory in front of more than 15,000 fans in the United Center. It was Texas Tech’s first home sellout in more than seven years.
“I still don’t know exactly what happened. I’m still trying to find out,” Cowboys head coach Travis Ford said when asked on his post-game radio show on the Cowboys Radio Network.
OSU’s Phil Forte, who has known Smart since the two began playing basketball together in the third grade, rushed to his teammate’s side and pulled him away from the Texas Tech fan.
“He just lets his competitiveness sometimes get the best of him,” Forte said. “If he would just learn to channel that competitiveness and that fire he has at times, I think that’s the key to him sometimes. I think sometimes he lets outside factors get in his head. But overall, I think he plays hard every night and you can’t question that about him. He’ll learn from this and he’ll move on.”
OSU is now 16-7 overall and 4-6 in Big 12 play, while Texas Tech improves to 12-11 overall and 4-6 in the conference.
The Cowboys appeared to be in control early in the second half, thanks to Smart.
After trailing 29-27 at halftime, Smart and his teammates went on a 14-4 run over a five-minute stretch to take an eight-point lead. Smart his four free throws on back-to-back possessions and then found Phil Forte open for a three-pointer. Smart followed it up with a basket from in the paint, Nash added a baseline jumper and Forte sank another trey from the top of the key to put the Cowboys up 44-36 with 13:45 left in the second half.
But the Red Raiders held the Cowboys to just one basket over the next four minutes to get back in the game.
Smart had made just 4 of his last 33 three-pointers entering the game, and missed his first three against the Red Raiders. But Smart hit nothing but net on a 24-footer with the shot clock running down to put the Cowboys back on top 57-54 with less than five minutes to play.
That, however, would be the last OSU lead of the game. Smart’s layup with 2:45 to play tied the game 59-59 and Nash’s two free throws knotted it at 61-61 a minute later.
Tech took a 63-61 lead on Crockett’s baseline jumper with 40 seconds on the clock. The Cowboys took two timeouts on their next possession, and looked for Nash to take the ball to the basket hoping to score or get fouled in the game’s final 10 seconds. But he lost control of the ball and the Red Raiders found Crockett streaking down the floor before Smart committed the hard foul, and was then whistled for the technical foul.
“We played pretty well offensively, except for the turnovers. Turnovers killed us. The 15 turnovers really, really hurt us but we didn’t guard anybody the last eight to 10 minutes of the game for whatever reason,” Ford said. “For 20 minutes we were unbelievable defensively. But they just made big shots. My goodness, we defended the three-point line the whole game and then they made four threes in the last five minutes of the game. Defense just let us down down the stretch.
“We put ourselves in position to close it out but 15 turnovers and (our) defense let us down, and we really don’t have a shot blocker in there to protect the rim a whole lot. Then we got them to miss a couple of times late but they’d get a rebound and put it right back in. (We have) too many guys making too many excuses,” Ford said.
Smart led the Cowboys with 22 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the field and he was 9 of 10 from the free-throw line. Forte added 15 points and Nash finished with 12. Markel Brown, who made seven three-pointers and finished with 25 points against the Red Raiders in Lubbock a year ago, only had eight points Saturday night.
The schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Cowboys, who last lost four in a in February 2011. They are on the road to face 15th-ranked Texas on Tuesday night in Austin.