With 6.2 seconds remaining in Oklahoma State’s 65-61 loss at Texas Tech on Saturday night, sophomore guard Marcus Smart shoved Texas Tech fan Jeff Orr after being taunted by Orr. Smart, who wound up close to the stands as a result of his challenging a Texas Tech layup attempt, was assessed a technical foul and removed from the game by head coach Travis Ford.
Smart apologized for his actions during a press conference on Sunday evening, and the Big 12 announced that he will be suspended for the Cowboys’ next three games. The first game Smart will miss is on Tuesday night, when the Cowboys visit No. 15 Texas.
“Mr. Smart’s actions were a clear violation of the Big 12 Conference’s Sportsmanship and Ethical Conduct Policy,” Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in the release. “Such behavior has no place in athletics, and will not be tolerated. I appreciate the efforts of Oklahoma State University athletics director Mike Holder in addressing this matter, and believe this is an appropriate response to an inappropriate action.”
Smart will also miss games against Oklahoma and Baylor, with the first game he can play upon his return being the Cowboys’ home game against Texas Tech on February 22. There’s never a good time for a situation like this, and the fact that Oklahoma State is already down one guard (Stevie Clark, who was dismissed from the program) makes the loss of Smart even bigger.
Without Smart in the fold for the next three games it’s likely that fellow sophomore Phil Forte III moves into the starting lineup. However the next best playmaker for the Cowboys has been Markel Brown, who’s second on the team with an average of 2.6 assists per game. Forte’s averaging just 1.1 assists per game, with much of his work being done off the ball prior to this point.
Any way you slice it, this is a major personnel loss for a team that’s lost four in a row and five of its last six games. And without their best playmaker, Oklahoma State’s in serious danger of going from being ranked in the Top 10 to not even making the NCAA tournament. How well the Cowboys perform in Smart’s absence will determine their fate.
The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.
The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.
They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.
That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.
So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.
Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:
With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.
At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes
“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:
“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”
“It’s all money.”
Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.
Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .
Want to talk about coaching luxuries?
Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.