OSU has had its share of big wins in the past few years, including an 85-80 victory over second-ranked Kansas in Lawrence two years ago and then last season’s 72-65 win over the Jayhawks in Stillwater when the Cowboys were looking for a statement win to get in the NCAA Tournament.
On Jan. 25, 2012, when Nash was a freshman, the Cowboys had lost three in a row when the second-ranked Missouri Tigers traveled to Stillwater. Nash scored a game-high 27 points as the Cowboys upset the Tigers 79-72.
So the Cowboys have had their share of monumental wins since Nash arrived as a McDonald’s All-American prior to the 2011-12 season.
But with what lies ahead the next three weeks – and after losing to Bedlam rival Oklahoma inside Gallagher-Iba Arena just seven days ago – it’s not a stretch to call the five-point win over the Jayhawks the biggest of Nash’s career.
The Cowboys are now 16-7 overall and 6-5 in Big play entering a four-game stretch that includes Monday night’s trip to No. 19 Baylor (87-69 winners over West Virginia on Saturday), a road game at TCU next Saturday, before back-to-back home contests against No. 11 Iowa State (17-5) and No. 15 West Virginia (18-5).
Nash has now won three times in eight games against the Jayhawks, and two of the losses were in double overtime and another in overtime.
“I just learned from one of the managers that we’re the school that has the most wins in four years against Kansas, and that makes me smile a lot,” said Nash, who scored a game-best 18 points while adding five rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot in Saturday’s win.
“When you play the best team in the Big 12 you always want to go out and prove that you can compete with them. Every year this is the game that’s circled on my calendar. Every year I want to be better than them. They’re the team at the top, so you’ve got to prove yourself. Tonight we did what we had to do to get a W.
“I want to be seen as a winner, and getting wins against Kansas is special. Going out like this is a blessing. I hope I play them again. I hope we play them again, I hope it’s in the Big 12 championship or something.”
For the first 20 minutes Saturday it didn’t appear that the Cowboys were going to improve their record against the Jayhawks. Nash only scored six points on 2-of-8 shooting while turning the ball over three times, and picked up his second foul midway through the first half. The Jayhawks hit 7-of-9 three-pointers in the first half to build a 41-30 halftime lead.
The Cowboys full-court pressure got to the Jayhawks in the second half, and Nash and senior point guard Anthony Hickey combined to outscore KU (22-21) in leading a comeback victory.
"We came in at halftime. It was maybe the most positive halftime we've had,” said OSU coach Travis Ford. “I told our guys, 'All the numbers say we should be down 20. All the percentages, how we played.' We were lucky because we just spotted them 11 points because we did not play well in the first half. I didn't think we played well. We didn't have the pop that we needed.
“I told our team that they went on two big runs in the first half and we went on zero. I said, 'You know we have some runs in us at some point, so let's take the mentality - we've spotted them 11 points and let's just get after it and understand that this is where we're at and know we have better basketball in us.' All of the numbers said that we should have been down 20 at halftime.”
The Cowboys used a 14-1 run over the first three and a half minutes of the first half to take the lead, and they outscored the Jayhawks 37-21 in the second half.
Ford said, "On the court I told our guys, 'Our press has to be a difference maker. Our press has to change this game. That's how hard we need to press. That's how hard we need to go about this.' I thought our guys really got after it and we changed some things around.”
While Nash led the Cowboys with 18 points he got help from Hickey (15 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 assist and only 1 turnover), Phil Forte (13 points, 3 steals and 2 assists while playing with the flu), and Jeff Newberry (10 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 assists).
The Cowboys have now won back-to-back Big 12 games for the first time this season, winning 65-63 in overtime at Texas on Wednesday night prior to Saturday’s victory over the Jayhawks. They don’t have long to bask in the glow as they travel to Waco, Texas to face No. 19 Baylor on Monday night. OSU has lost its last eight games in Waco, with the last victory coming in 2006.