By Jason Elmquist
CNHI News Service
STILLWATER — A reeling Oklahoma State squad couldn’t right the ship Saturday against an underachieving Baylor team inside Gallagher-Iba Arena.
The Cowboys dropped their fourth Big 12 Conference game — while the Bears ended a five-game losing streak — with a 76-70 letdown on Eddie Sutton Court.
“We’re playing in spurts right now. Sometimes, we get out there and relax and that’s when the other team punches us in the mouth,” Cowboy senior guard Markel Brown said. “I feel like we need to just go out there and play hard, never take a play off, battle the boards all night long, no matter how physical the other team has been, and get back out to pushing the ball and sharing it.”
Brown did all he could to get his Cowboys the win over the Bears. The senior from Alexandria, La., scored a game-high 24 points thanks to a 6 of 8 performance from 3-point range. He and Le’Bryan Nash led Oklahoma State, with Nash scoring 19 points — going 7 for 11 from the field and 5 of 5 from the free throw line — while also coming away with six rebounds.
Sophomore point guard Marcus Smart, however, continued to be mired in a shooting slump with a 3 for 14 performance from the field — though he did make 9 of 11 free throws to finish with 15 points. In his past four games, Smart is shooting just 24.5 percent from the field — well below his season average of 43 percent.
He struggled his most down the stretch of the close contest with the Bears. The sophomore from Flower Mound, Texas, had zero baskets in the final 14 minutes of the game, missing all six of his shot attempts, and only contributed two assists in that span — finishing with a game-high seven assists. He did, however, haul in five of his six rebounds during that stretch.
“He understands that we need him to do everything that affects the game in a variety of ways — whether it be rebounding, steals or getting other guys shots — and that being the priority of what he does great for us,” said Ford of Smart, who went 0 for 7 from 3-point range. “That just needs to be the priority for him. Not that he can’t score, he’ll figure it out.”
Some of the credit has to go to Baylor’s zone defense that put a pinch on Smart and OSU sharp shooter Phil Forte. Smart’s prep teammate had difficulties finding any breathing room to get off a shot a game after knocking down six against Bedlam rival Oklahoma.
Forte finished 0 for 4 from long range and was held scoreless for the third time this season — just the first time in Big 12 play after having scored double digits in his last three games.
“We stressed that heavily. I think that’s why Markel was able to knock down a couple of shots, because we said we’d rather anyone else on the team take an open three than to rotate off and then have Forte knock down some shots,” Baylor guard Gary Franklin said. “Once he gets going, he can hit from pretty much anywhere, and that causes too much havoc on the defense. Obviously we wouldn’t want Markel to make as many shots as he did, but we’ll live with that as opposed to letting Forte get off and get some shots.”
With Forte, who played 30 minutes in the loss, going scoreless and backup point guard Stevie Clark also going 0 for 2 from the arc, Oklahoma State only got one point from its bench players.
In comparison, Baylor got 20 points from the bench, including 14 points from sophomore forward Rico Gathers — who also had six rebounds, which matched the high for any OSU player.