Nash’s 29 leads No. 11 Oklahoma State past WVU
STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) Marcus Smart had one of the worst games of his career, yet Oklahoma State still found a way to win.
Le’Bryan Nash scored a career-high 29 points and had nine rebounds to help the 11th-ranked Cowboys beat West Virginia 81-75 on Saturday.
Smart, a sophomore guard who entered the game as the Big 12’s leading scorer, finished with a season-low four points on 1-for-7 shooting and played just 25 minutes before fouling out. West Virginia’s game plan was to bring the contact to Smart.
”He likes to be physical, so you have to be physical back,” West Virginia guard Juwan Staten said. ”Try to get in his head a little bit, try to get him to commit some fouls he doesn’t want to commit, try to get him in foul trouble. That’s what we did.”
Smart was visibly upset throughout the game and spent much of his playing time picking himself up off the ground.
”I think he did get a little frustrated, and I’m anxious to see if it was justified,” Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said.
Nash, a 6-foot-7 wing, picked up the slack. He was 10 of 13 from the field for the Cowboys (16-3, 4-2 Big 12), who swept the season series with the Mountaineers.
”It’s just my teammates getting me shots in the right place,” he said. ”I’m right under the basket, and when they dump it off, I’m going up strong. That’s what it is.”
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said Nash’s outburst was no surprise.
”I saw him in high school, and I knew how good he was,” Huggins said. ”He’s been terrific all year. I think he’s probably the hardest guard in our league. He can bounce it. If you let him catch it inside of 15 feet, he’s got a great chance to score.”
Markel Brown had 15 points and 10 rebounds and Phil Forte added 13 points for Oklahoma State, which now can focus on a showdown at No. 25 Oklahoma on Monday.
”It’s Bedlam,” Nash said. ”It don’t get no better than this. It’s two good teams. We’re going into their house. We really want to win. We’ve got to give it to Oklahoma, they’ve got some good wins, and it’s going to be tough.”
Eron Harris scored 21 points and Staten added 19 for the Mountaineers (11-9, 3-4), who have lost four of five.
There were 56 fouls, 66 free throws and six players fouled out. Oklahoma State made just 4 of 24 3-point attempts and was outrebounded 41-35, but held the Mountaineers to 37 percent shooting.
Smart scored his first points on two free throws with 10:42 left in the first half.
West Virginia led 25-18 in the first half when Smart picked up his second foul, but Oklahoma State rallied without him. A three-point play by Nash sparked a run, and the Cowboys tied the game at 26 on two free throws by Brown with 6:15 left in the first half. Another three-point play by Nash gave Oklahoma State the lead with 3:45 left in the first half.
The Cowboys finished the half with a flurry. Brown threw down a monster two-handed putback dunk with 18 seconds left. Forte then stole the ball and, while lying on the ground under pressure, found Nash under the basket for a thunderous reverse jam to give the Cowboys a 42-35 lead. Nash had 18 points and seven rebounds in the first half.
Harris picked up his fourth foul with just over 15 minutes remaining and West Virginia leading 46-44.
Brown’s near 360-degree dunk ignited the crowd and tied the score with just under 14 minutes remaining.
”I have a great set of athletic ability, and it would be a shame to waste it and not do something for the crowd,” he said. ”I feel like they come to the game to see things like that, so I had to give it to them. It’s a great sparkplug to this team.”
Smart found Nash with a behind-the-head pass for a basket and a foul, and Nash’s free throw gave Oklahoma State a 66-60 lead with 7:11 to play.
Harris made a 3-pointer to cut Oklahoma State’s lead to 70-67, but on OSU’s next possession, Brown attacked the rim and scored while drawing Harris’ fifth foul with 3:35 to go. A three-point play by Brian Williams with 2:01 remaining gave the Cowboys a 75-67 lead.
Nash fouled out with 1:40 to go, and West Virginia rallied one last time. The Mountaineers could have tied it in the final minute, but Nathan Adrian missed a 3-pointer. Forte made 6 of 6 free throws in the final 37 seconds to seal the win for the Cowboys.
West Virginia felt it missed an opportunity with Smart out of the lineup so much.
”We knew that if we could get him in foul trouble in the first half and slow him down that we’d have a pretty good chance of winning this game,” Staten said. ”We executed our plan, there were just a couple key moments that we didn’t really execute on that cost us.”
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP.