South Carolina-Oklahoma St. Preview

The Associated Press

Oklahoma State's stay in the top 5 was a brief one.

The ninth-ranked Cowboys' attempted climb back begins Friday night on their home court against South Carolina in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.

After a week at No. 5, Marcus Smart and the Cowboys (7-1) lost 73-68 to Memphis on Sunday in the championship game of the Old Spice Classic. Smart was held to 12 points on 4-for-13 shooting, going 0 for 5 from 3-point range after scoring a career-high 39 against Memphis in a 21-point win on Nov. 19.

The preseason All-American played with a stomach virus, though he dismissed that as an issue after his worst shooting performance of the season.

"I knew they were going to make adjustments because of how I played last game," said Smart, who averages 20.5 points. "I was fully expecting it. Things weren't falling my way."

The Cowboys are still averaging 91.9 points despite being held under 70 in their last two, and they also weren't nearly as disruptive defensively in Orlando. Oklahoma State generated an average of 9.3 turnovers in its three tournament games after getting 18.6 per game in its first five.

"On the defensive end, we didn't play like we're used to," Smart said.

While the Cowboys' scoring pace might not have been sustainable, they'd like to at least get their outside shooting figured out. Oklahoma State went a season-worst 3 for 13 from 3-point range after going 4 for 15 in the semifinals against Butler.

It shot 47.7 from beyond the arc through six games.

"We just weren't ourselves," coach Travis Ford said. "Not taking anything away from Memphis at all, but we were our own worst enemy on a lot of occasions. I'm a little surprised that it was even, as bad as we played, as close as it was."

Reserve Phil Forte's shot has been consistent through it all as he's knocked down 56.1 percent of his 3s. The sophomore guard, who shot 37.0 percent overall as a freshman and 33.8 percent from beyond the arc, hit 3 of 5 3-pointers against Memphis and scored a game-high 19 points.

South Carolina (2-2) has been off since an 84-72 win over Florida International on Nov. 24.

The Gamecocks get Bruce Ellington back temporarily after the senior guard missed the first four games while leading the South Carolina football team in receiving yards. Ellington averaged 9.9 points in 23 games - 19 starts - last season, though he shot just 33.5 percent.

"Bruce is off the charts," coach Frank Martin said of Ellington, who was with the team Tuesday. "Him practicing today made our team better."

The Gamecocks are 0-2 on the road with losses at Baylor and Clemson, where they combined to shoot 35.7 percent and 22.2 percent from 3-point range. And despite holding opponents to 37.6 percent shooting so far this season, it's that end of the court where Martin wants improvement.

"Our sense of urgency defensively has to be better," he said.

The Gamecocks have lost their last eight contests against top-10 opponents and haven't won a road game against one since beating No. 7 Florida in 2006.

Oklahoma State and South Carolina have met once previously, a Gamecocks win in 1975, though Martin is a little more familiar with the Cowboys. He went 4-3 against Oklahoma State as coach of Kansas State from 2007-12.

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