KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Marcus Smart’s low point this season came in Lubbock, Texas, where his bubbling frustration boiled over when a Texas Tech fan taunted him, resulting in a retaliatory shove from the Oklahoma State sophomore.
Smart’s turning point likely spun from the same moment.
While the incident is nothing he’ll be proud of, his response from that adversity has redirected his, and the Cowboys’, season.
With a changed Smart leading the way, OSU has altered course, climbing out of a seven-game losing streak to go 4-1 over its last five games entering the Big 12 Tournament, where it faces Texas Tech in a Wednesday opener. Tip time is 6 p.m. in the Sprint Center.
Once again, Smart looks like the Big 12’s most impactful player.
Once again, the Cowboys look formidable, although with this team nothing comes easy.
And Smart now considers that ugly moment in Lubbock, Texas, a blessing.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Smart said. “That’s always how I’ve been raised. God puts situations in your life for a reason. It was a step that I needed to take.
“He put it in front of me and it’s been helping me so far.”
Before that fateful trip to West Texas, the Cowboys had been in a funk, dropping three straight. Losing that night at Tech made it four consecutive losses, a slide that then continued on through the three games he sat out while under suspension from the Big 12.
Smart’s own funk had become a storyline, too. Noticeably agitated and angry at times on the floor, he made news for the wrong reasons, whether frequently complaining about calls or flopping or kicking chairs on the bench or even briefly stomping away from the court late in one game, a moment that later spurred an apology to his teammates via Twitter. Smart’s game deteriorated as well. He fired up too many wild perimeter shots, seemingly trying to play hero, rather than the versatile facilitator role that marked his standout play a year ago.
Then came the shove. And the suspension.
And some pause and reflection.
“I definitely think it helped him,” said teammate and longtime friend Phil Forte. “He was able to step back and refresh his mind. And I think it humbled him. He got his fire back to just go out there and play and have fun again.