For many, the focus going into Saturday’s game at Oklahoma State was the return of Marcus Smart — would he keep his composure, would he try to take over his team?
No and no.
Smart finished just shy of a triple-double with 16 points, a career-high 10 assists and six steals en route to an 84-62 Cowboy victory.
“It felt great,” Smart said. “The three games out felt like years to me, months. ... Coming back and being able to do that for my team feels amazing,”
The bigger story in the game was who would get back to their winning ways, and Saturday afternoon it was Oklahoma State.
“I don’t know how they were different (from last time), I just think we were a little nonchalant,” junior Jordan Tolbert said.
Le’Bryan Nash led the Cowboys with 21, followed by Phil Forte with 20, Markel Brown with 11 and Kamari Murphy with 10.
“We played well and we played together,” OSU head coach Travis Ford said. “We’ve worked really hard in practice the last three days on playing as a team on both ends of the court.”
The Red Raiders struggled defensively and didn’t take good care of the basketball as Oklahoma State scored 21 points off Tech’s 15 turnovers.
Juniors Jordan Tolbert and Robert Turner paced the Texas Tech offense with 15 and 10 points respectively.
Every Red Raider that received playing time scored.
The Cowboys, after scoring only four points in the first nine minutes in Lubbock, got out to a quick start.
Texas Tech kept it close — the score was tied at 12 before Oklahoma State heated up from behind the arc to go out to a 10-point lead.
The Red Raiders missed having junior point guard Robert Turner on the floor.
He was seated on the bench after picking up two quick fouls with 16:26 left in the first half.
Freshman Randy Onwuasor ran things for Tech to finish out the first 20 minutes, but he struggled against Oklahoma State’s half court trap.
“Rob controls the tempo so it was a little shaky,” Tolbert said.
Smith, however, was pleased with his team’s performance with Onwuasor on the court but said that senior Jaye Crockett wasn’t himself.
“Jaye’s knee is bothering him,” Smith said. “I probably shouldn’t have played him. He was on the training table when I went in there before the game started. He said he has some tendenitis or something going on in his knee.”
He finished with two of Tech’s eight first half turnovers, something that the Cowboys capitalized off of with 11 points.
In the waning seconds of the first half, Smart scored a bucket and then got the steal on Tech’s inbound pass for a second bucket.
“He faked them out,” Smith said. “He faked like he was going to go back and then turned around. He’s pretty deceptive and it was pretty smart on his part.”
In the final half, Oklahoma State shot 65.5 percent from the field.
Smith said it was probably the worst half his team has had this year.
“It was a disappointing performance on our part,” Smith said. “We’ve been playing OK, but today we really took a step back.”
For the second straight game, the Red Raiders struggled defending the basketball.
“Everybody had to be in the right position to help the next man,” Turner said. “That’s big for our defense. Sometimes we weren’t in the right spots tonight, and they got the ball to the open man. That hurt us.”
Smith said it was hard for his team to match up.
“They can beat you off the dribble at every spot,” Smith said. “We just couldn’t stay with Phil Forte. He seemed to get quite a few open looks. Now we have to give help from somewhere else and they’re very athletic and quick.”
Despite being undersized, the Cowboys outscored Tech in the paint 42-28.
“They just made their shots,” Tolbert said. “They made tough shots in the paint. They shot right over us.”
Coming off three straight losses, the Red Raiders have a quick turnaround as they host Kansas State on Tuesday.
“There’s not time to dwell on this loss,” Turner said. “It’s going to hurt for now, but as far as tomorrow, it’s in the past.”
Follow Krista on Twitter