Their Time To Shine: Brown, Nash Must Step Up

Markel Brown has spent the last three and a half years playing a supporting role at Oklahoma State. Le'Bryan Nash hasn't been asked to carry a team since his senior season at Lincoln High School in Dallas. But Brown, the only scholarship senior, and Nash, a five-star recruit who turned down Kentucky, UCLA and Texas to play at OSU, are now being counted on to save the season for the Cowboys.

The Cowboys will play Tuesday night against 19th-ranked Texas in Austin without point guard Marcus Smart, who will remain in Stillwater while serving the first of a three-game suspension from his altercation with a Texas Tech fan during OSU's game against the Red Raiders on Saturday night.

OSU will be without Smart, who ranks among the Big 12 leaders in four statistical categories, in games at Texas (18-5), against Oklahoma (18-6) on Saturday at Gallagher-Iba Arena, and at Baylor (14-9) next Monday. He is second in steals (2.1 per game), is fourth in assists (4.9), sixth in scoring (17.6 points), and seventh in rebounding (7.8).

"We have opportunities for players to step up, opportunities for our team to grow right now," Cowboys head coach Travis Ford said Sunday night during a news conference announcing Smart's three-game suspension. "Obviously, Marcus has been a major identity of our basketball team, no question about it. This is going to give them an opportunity for some of them who haven't been playing quite as much to pick up the slack while he is out.

"I told my staff this morning, you're not going to see heads dropped. You're not going to see anybody feeling sorry for themselves, that's not my personality. We are looking forward to getting better as a basketball team. We will be looking forward to getting Marcus back in three games. But while he's out, I expect our team to perform and we'll get them ready to do so," Ford added.

That means the 6-3 Brown, who averages 16.6 points and 5.5 rebounds, and the 6-7 Nash (14.5 ppg, 5.9 reb.) must step up for the Cowboys, who are 16-7 overall and 4-6 in the Big 12 after having lost four consecutive games for the first time in three years.

OSU defeated Texas 87-74 on Jan. 8 in Stillwater with Smart contributing 24 points, 11 rebounds, 6 steals, 5 assists and 1 blocked shot. But that was a long time ago.

With a bench that has been used sparingly (only Christian Sager has averaged more than six minutes per game in Big 12 play, and that's only because he's been forced to play 18 minutes in two of the Cowboys' last three games), the Cowboys will be forced to rely on their starting five.

Brown (37.2 minutes per conference game), Nash (30.9), Kamari Murphy (28.5), Phil Forte (28.4) and Brian Williams (25.6) will be on the court for the majority of the game against the bigger, taller Longhorns.

Texas is 18-5 overall and 7-3 in the Big 12 after having a seven-game winning streak snapped by Kansas State on Saturday. The Longhorns will start 6-9, 285-pound Cameron Ridley (10.8 points, 7.9 reb.) and 6-8, 240-pound Jonathan Holmes (13.1 ppg, 7.4 reb.). Guards Isaiah Taylor (12.3) and Javan Felix (11.8) also average in double figures.

Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. on ESPN2.

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