Nash Lights Up Tigers In Upset Win

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Le'Bryan Nash show. Everyone has been waiting for the game where OSU's former McDonald's All-American freshman would proclaim his dominance — this was it.

Nash has had good games but something negative could always be said about them: Bad shot selection, too many turnovers, OSU didn't win, etc. Things that gave you pause to declare his arrival.

Wednesday night in Stillwater, his arrival was unmistakable as Nash led the Cowboys to a 79-72 comeback win against No. 2 Missouri.

And his coming out party, in the words of his head coach, was not a coincidence.

"Le'Bryan Nash played at a very high level. All his moves were a little bit more explosive," OSU coach Travis Ford said. "Everyone is going to look at his 27 points, but his defense was better than his offense. It's not a coincidence when you work hard and stay after shoot-around while everyone else is going to pre-game meal. It's not a coincidence that he told me yesterday he was going to be ready today and he had a good practice. It's not a coincidence that when you play great defense it mentally gets you into the game. His defense was really, really good tonight. And tonight he was alternating between the three and the four, which is very difficult to do in our system.

"He was the X-factor. When plays don't work we have to do something and he did something."

He did something, alright.

He scored a career-best 27 points on 12-of-18 shooting and connected on 3-of-4 3-point attempts. He carved the Tigers up in the paint, he lit them up from deep, his mid-range jumper was dialed in. Whatever Nash did worked and he did it best when it was needed the most.

The Dallas native had eight first half points on 4-of-7 shooting but exploded for 19 in the second to propel OSU to the win. His efficiency and timing is what really separated this game from his other 20-plus point outings. In the second half, with the defense focused on him, he drilled 8-of-11 shots, including all three 3-point attempts.

"I just tried to get in a aggressive in the second half, you know. I talked to my coaches and they said, ‘You need to get more aggressive. Don't try to let the ball come to you, go get the ball,'" Nash said. "My teammates got me the ball in good situations. Once it started rolling, the shots started falling."

And those shots started falling most frequently at the right time.

After Markel Brown hammered a one-handed alley-oop over a Missouri defender, Brown received his second technical of the night and was ejected. His dunk had pulled OSU to within 56-53. After the technical free throws and Missouri's ensuing possession the Cowboys trailed 60-53.

With 6:31 remaining, OSU appeared to be losing its grip on a potential upset. Nash had other plans.

Save for two Brian Williams free throws, Nash scored the Cowboys' next 13 points and turned a seven-point deficit into a four-point lead.

The end of his one-man run was punctuated by back-to-back 3's, the second of which nearly reduced Gallagher-Iba Arena to rubble.

And for good measure, Nash helped put the exclamation point on the game by tossing a fast break alley-oop to Brian Williams with 1:20 remaining for a six-point lead OSU would never relinquish.

"One of our stars went down and I had to pick up the slack for this team," Nash said. "Markel, what a great job he did, even though he got a tech. He did a great job on the offensive and defensive ends. Everybody in the gym knows he can jump but he proved he can sky over anybody. That was a great play and it motivated us."

After the game, coach Ford explained the ups and downs of Nash's freshman season as he has from time to time but he ended it with a statement that rang true in a way that can't be argued.

"(Highs and lows are) going to happen," Ford said. "Not any player can do what he did tonight, though. Not just anybody can do that. We all know he has the potential and the talent, it's just part of the process."

And as far as that process goes, Wednesday night represented the biggest leap.

Ford was right, few can do what Nash did against the Tigers. Against the No. 2 team in America, Nash was unmistakably the best player on the floor. He was unstoppable, indefensible. He was every bit a consensus top-10 national recruit.

It was only fitting that Oklahoma State's signature victory of the season ended with the ball in Nash's hands as the student section swarmed him in a massive celebration.

Nash couldn't wipe a smile from his face.

There will be more ups and downs to come, it's part of being a freshman, but that smile might have been an acknowledgment of what everyone had been saying during the second half of the upset win — Nash has arrived.

"I'm just going to try to keep it up," Nash said. "I'm going to try to help this team win games. That's all I'm thinking about."

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