Marcus Smart finds himself in unfamiliar territory.
The freshman point guard earned the reputation of being a winner during his high school and AAU days. Now for the first time as a college athlete, Smart is in the midst of a losing streak, and he isn’t happy about it.
“If losing doesn’t get to you, that’s bad on your part because I hate losing and it’s not a good feeling,” Smart said. “I get a little emotional about it but at the same time you have to control those emotions.”
Smart and the Oklahoma State Cowboys (10-3, 0-1) will have a chance to end the streak and win their first conference game when the TCU Horned Frogs visit Gallagher-Iba Arena on Wednesday. It’s the first home Big 12 game of the season for OSU. The Cowboys previously lost a nail-bitter at home versus Gonzaga and another close game at Kansas State to open conference play.
“You can’t dwell on the past,” Smart said. “You have to let those two games go in one ear and out the other. This (losing) is temporary for us. We are close, we just have to get over the hump.”
TCU (9-5, 0-1) enters the game with just two players averaging double figures in points scored. They average 57 points per game, which lines up with the 57.8 points per game the Cowboys have given up this season.
Like his team, OSU coach Travis Ford sees a Horned Frog team that’s been bit by the injury bug. Unlike his Cowboys squad, TCU prefers to slow the game down; something Ford is game planning for.
“They are a basketball team that is going through some injuries,” Ford said. “They want you to play their style of basketball. The tricky part about it is they catch you off guard (with their style of play). They are very physical inside.”
A key to victory for the Cowboys will be how well they recognize the tendencies of the Horned Frogs, especially given TCU’s limited offensive output.
“They like to give the ball to certain guys in certain spots,” Ford said. “We have to do a good job defensively and rebound the basketball.”
The lightning rod for the Cowboys’ recent struggles is Le’Bryan Nash. After starting the year hot, Nash has cooled down. In OSU’s last two contests, Nash has totaled just 15 points and seven rebounds.
As the point guard and unquestioned leader of the team, Smart cited himself as part of the reason Nash has struggled.
“We need to find him in the post and give him the ball at times when he needs it to get his confidence back,” Smart said. “He is down right now, but that is partially my fault because, as a point guard, you need to know when and where to get players the ball.”
Although he acknowledged Nash’s struggles, Ford said he was not concerned with his sophomore forward, noting the whole team needs to get back to playing at the level they did before the losing streak.
“Hopefully we can get Marcus and Markel playing (like they are) and Kamari Murphy gets back to getting his eight to nine points that we were getting earlier,” Ford said. “Jurick is not playing the way he was and Cobbins, we need get a little bit more out of him. We basically had two guys scoring. A lot of it has to do with learning how to finish in these tight, close, physical games.”