After beating Texas Tech on Saturday, the Cowboys talked about starting a new streak – a positive streak – following a seven-game skid that rattled their locker room.
Well, the Cowboys are streaking.
Rolling 76-54 at TCU Monday night, OSU has won two straight.
Modest, yes, coming against two of the Big 12’s bottom feeders.
Yet necessary, if the Pokes are to pull themselves back into play for the postseason. And extending the streak to three, now that would be something, with again-crowned Big 12 champion Kansas up next in Gallagher-Iba Arena.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, even with Saturday’s clash again offering intrigue and excitement worthy of the College GameDay attention ESPN will bring to Stillwater.
There are still some nuggets worth mining from the TCU rout.
For the second straight game, the Cowboys totaled 20 assists against the Horned Frogs, matching their best in a regulation Big 12 game this season. It’s sign of sharing that had gone missing from the team during their skid. And it’s a sign that Marcus Smart, who led the way with seven assists, is reverting back to the game-changer he was as a freshman a year ago.
“We just hadn’t been ourselves in those seven games we lost,” Smart said. “We weren’t ourselves. And we saw that. These last two games is the way we need to play. And the way we should have been playing. That’s who we are.
“Playing together, this is the second game we had 20-plus assists. That’s what we do.”
Smart worked long and hard in the offseason to improve his perimeter shot. At times, it has showed. Times long ago in this season.
Before Monday night, Smart was 34 of 124 from long range – a 27.4 percentage. And 15 of his 3s had come in OSU’s first six games. Since then, he’d been 19 of 87 from the arc; 12 of 57 (21 percent) in conference play.
Smart started slowly against TCU, making just 1 of his first 12 shots from the floor – although he was impacting the game in other ways – but rediscovered his offense in the second half and fired in five 3s over the final 7:41 to finish 5 of 9 from the arc. The five 3s were his most since OSU’s Memphis win way back when.
Now, the perimeter temptation contributed to Smart’s – and the Cowboys’ – struggles. And he needs to remain the sharing point guard he’s been these past two games. And it sounds like he understands that.
“Some days you’re going to be on, some games you’re going to be off. It’s what you do other than that,” Smart said of his shooting. “You can affect the game in other ways. I had seven assists and five steals (Monday night) and that helped my team.”
Through the first four months of this season, fans have had little reason to get excited about freshman Leyton Hammonds. A premium recruit, Hammonds just hadn’t produced in games.
Still, the Cowboys insisted they saw great things from the 6-7 wing man in practice. Those things just weren’t translating to games… yet.
Hammonds scored a career-high 13 points at TCU, with confidence, finally providing a glimpse of what he can be for the Cowboys in the future. And in the short-term, as help off the bench.
“He can help us,” Smart said. “Leyton can come in and give us some good minutes. He stretches the defense, because he’s versatile. He can shoot the ball, but he can also drive the ball. He can play defense. And he can rebound. That helps our team in a lot of different ways.”
Hammonds may not get the career-high 24 minutes he enjoyed Monday night, but he’ll get more opportunities to make an impact as OSU hits this critical three-game stretch to close the regular season: Kansas, Kansas State, at IowaState.