It was fitting that on Senior Night, Oklahoma State’s top two seniors led the way.
Le’Bryan Nash and Anthony Hickey each scored 20 points to lead Oklahoma State to an 82-70 victory over TCU Wednesday night.
Hickey scored 18 of his points in the second half, while also adding five assists for Oklahoma State (18-11, 8-9 Big 12). It was an important win for the Cowboys, who tumbled out of the Top 25 rankings and damaged its previously-strong lock on an NCAA tournament bid following a four-game losing streak.
"I’m proud of our team’s effort," said Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford. "The personality of this team, they haven’t really gotten too high or too low. I think they were excited for the seniors to win this game, but they’ve been pretty even-keel, which has hurt us sometimes."
Kyan Anderson scored 23 points, all in the second half, along with four rebounds and four assists, for TCU (17-13, 4-13), which is 3-3 in its last six after losing seven in a row.
"We were running our stuff and we were good in the first half, but we didn’t do enough defensively," said TCU coach Trent Johnson. "You’re not going to give up 82 points and win many games."
Johnson questioned whether Oklahoma State should be considered an NCAA tournament `bubble team,’ feeling they clearly belong in the field of 64.
"They made plays, they shot deep 3s, and right before the half, Nash had two old-fashioned three-point plays in the lane," Johnson said. "This team is not a bubble team, let’s not kid ourselves. Everybody’s talking nationally about Oklahoma State being desperate. I don’t think so. I just know that’s a good basketball team."
The Cowboys trailed 25-20 late in the first half when they finally found their game, reeling off a 32-8 run over an 11-minute span encompassing the end of the first half and beginning of the second. That stretch included 13 straight points early in the second half, as OSU surged to a commanding 52-33 lead when Nash put home a layup while falling, then capped off the three-point play with a free throw, with 14:48 remaining.
That play was similar to several that Nash made throughout the game, battling his way to the basket and either drawing fouls or making the basket, or both.
"LB had a good game," Ford said. "I liked the pace of his game, I thought he played strong around the rim, unselfish, and I’m proud of how he played."
TCU used a 9-3 run to pull within 72-60 with 5:32 left, but OSU responded with five straight points and never led by less than 12 points the rest of the way.
Neither team got off to a strong start, with TCU taking a 9-5 lead on Amric Fields’ layup seven minutes into the contest. Oklahoma State had missed 11 straight field goal attempts when Jeffrey Carroll hit a 3-pointer from the right side with 11:12 left in the first half to make it 9-8.
Neither team managed more than a six-point lead over the next 11 minutes, although Oklahoma State closed the first half on a 14-5 run to take a 34-30 advantage into halftime.
"I thought we were playing well the first half, just couldn’t get any shots to fall," Ford said. "We missed a lot of easy shots and they were making a lot of shots, but our guys kept fighting, and made our run in the second half. We’d struggled a lot in the second halves lately, and I’m proud of the guys for carrying over some of the things we’ve been working on."