Nash leads No. 9 OSU past South Carolina
STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — Le’Bryan Nash insisted last week’s loss to Memphis wasn’t on Oklahoma State’s mind when it took the court against South Carolina.
Whatever the ninth-ranked Cowboys were focused on worked out just fine as they dominated the Gamecocks in a 79-52 victory on Friday night.
Even with preseason All-America guard Marcus Smart playing a largely supporting role, Oklahoma State (8-1) used an early 25-2 run to take control and put the game out of reach — easing any leftover disappointment from the loss to No. 16 Memphis last week.
Nash finished with 16 points to lead all five Cowboys’ starters in double figures, and Oklahoma State forced 24 turnovers in holding South Carolina (2-3) to a season-low 52 points, just 15 in the first half.
“I thought the first half, I don’t know if you’ll see too much better defense being played in this building and hold a team like South Carolina to 15 points,” Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said. “… Our guys really came out and executed the scouting report and really locked in.”
The Cowboys lost 73-68 to the Tigers last week in the championship game of the Old Spice Classic. That game was the fourth within a week in Florida for the Cowboys, who played against Memphis with Smart — who was limited to 12 points — battling virus-like symptoms.
Smart was back to his usual self on Friday night, scoring 11 of his 13 points in the first half as Oklahoma State built a 26-point lead and put the game well out of reach. The sophomore added five assists, four rebounds and two steals in a game in which the Cowboys gave him plenty of help.
In addition to Nash and Smart, Oklahoma State’s other starters — Markel Brown, Brian Williams and Michael Cobbins — also finished in double figures. Brown had 11 points, while Williams and Cobbins added 10 each, with the Cowboys scoring 33 points off turnovers.
“I feel like it was good for our team to bounce back after a loss and to respond,” Cobbins said. “… Everybody responded in the right way.”
South Carolina hadn’t played a game in nearly two weeks, with its last outing an 84-72 victory over Florida International on Nov. 24.
Despite the time off, Gamecocks coach Frank Martin left little doubt that he thought the first-half domination was more about Oklahoma State making a point rather than any rust on South Carolina’s part.
“They’re good, and they came out and did exactly what I thought they would do,” Martin said. “… They came out and punched us, and our guys didn’t handle that real well.”
The Gamecocks struggled mightily to score in the first half, trailing 39-15 at halftime after shooting 20 percent (4 of 20) and committing 13 turnovers that led to 21 points by Oklahoma State.
The Gamecocks finished 16 of 45 (35.6 percent) from the field despite hitting 6 of 11 3-point attempts.
“We had guys trying to do their own thing to get us back in the game, and we were just playing catch up the whole night, and that doesn’t work when you’re playing a good team,” Martin said.
Led by Smart, the Cowboys had no such problems — using a 25-2 run to put the game out of reach in the opening minutes.
Williams’ free throw made it 27-5, capping a run during which the Gamecocks went nearly 5 minutes without scoring.
Smart finished the first-half scoring in style, driving the baseline for a left-handed dunk, but he was hardly the only one to get in on the fun for the Cowboys.
Nash had a one-handed dunk after a spin move on the baseline, and Cobbins brought the Gallagher-Iba Arena crowd to its feet with a two-handed follow dunk — the first of two the junior had in the game.
All in all, the convincing win was the perfect welcome home for Oklahoma State following last week’s trip.
“Happy with the win, happy with the way we came out and played, especially coming off a loss,” Ford said.