The Cowboys have long talked about managing the target affixed to their backs as a high-profile team in the Big 12 and beyond.
And the crosshairs clearly focus even tighter on Marcus Smart, who finds himself regularly measured by physical game plans of opponents designed at offsetting his own rugged nature and derailing his game.
And his emotions?
That was the scene Saturday, when Smart simmered throughout and eventually boiled over late in the game, inconsolably leaving the bench area and disappearing beyond the stands at Gallagher-Iba Arena for a few moments during OSU's 81-75 win over West Virginia.
Smart was having a rough day, and not just in reference to his season-low four points and 1-of-7 shooting performance.
It was rough, too, in his treatment by the Mountaineers, who put hands and more on the Cowboys star at every opportunity.
And Smart didn't manage it well, his mood worsened by the few calls that went his way from officials — and the many that went against him. Smart missed the final 7:26 of the first half after picking up his second personal and eventually fouled out, ending his frustrating afternoon.
Yet long before foul No. 5, he'd been taken out of his game.
And that can't continue, even as the tactics are sure to continue, if not intensify.
Oh, and Bedlam is up next, Monday night.
Ironically, the roughhousing of Smart is reminiscent of what Blake Griffin endured in his final season as a Sooner in 2009. During that season, Griffin was prodded and poked (in his privates), tripped and flipped, and literally bloodied and bruised.
And while Smart hasn't faced that gamut of physical affronts, there's still time.
So much for star treatment.
For all the chatter about Smart as a flopper — and there's some validity to the claims — opponents are inflicting plenty of unpunished shots on him, too.
“He takes a lot of punches,” Cowboys coach Travis Ford said, speaking figuratively rather than literally. “I know everybody thinks he does this and he does that. He's getting hit. I've watched tape. And I've sent it in (to the Big 12).
“We all understand that everyone's game plan is to take him out.”
And that won't change. What Smart can't allow is for those methods to lead to him taking himself out.
When Smart stomped off the court late in a tight and tough game, it was a surprising scene, even for his teammates, who have mostly adopted his gritty, tough and poised persona.
“Yeah, it surprised me, too,” said Markel Brown. “That's not Marcus' character. But if you ask me, I think he handled it in the right way. He walked away. He gathered himself.
“I probably would have gotten a technical or something like that.”
Griffin was outstanding at keeping his cool that season with the Sooners, as he charged on to become the unanimous National Player of the Year.
Starting in Norman, Monday night, Smart would benefit himself and his team by better managing the target.