For much of the season, Oklahoma State’s Le’Bryan Nash, has taken a back seat to former Flower Mound Marcus star Marcus Smart, who has captivated college basketball with a sensational freshman season.
Not Wednesday night at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum.
Nash, a sophomore forward from Dallas Lincoln High School, scored a career-high 28 points to lead the 15th-ranked Cowboys in a 64-47 victory against TCU.
About half of the approximately 4,000 in attendance, despite 7,046 tickets announced sold, hailed from either Marcus or Lincoln to cheer their returns to North Texas.
And they didn’t disappoint. Nash made 12 of 16 shots from the field and had six rebounds while Smart added nine points, five assists, three rebounds, and three steals as the Cowboys (21-6, 11-4 Big 12) remained in third place in the Big 12.
“That’s as versatile a team as we have in our league,” TCU coach Trent Johnson said. “They can play fast; they can play slow. We didn’t have an answer for Nash. But make no mistake about it, the key for that whole thing is what Smart does. He’s really special.”
A perfect example, Johnson described, was a sequence after a couple turnovers by Smart, who was grousing to himself about the errors, but staying unselfish. Smart was wide open in the corner and twice passed up shots to feed Nash, who started with a hot hand with 14 first-half points.
“He was mad at himself because he had two turnovers,” Johnson said. “And Nash was sort of frustrated. He told him he’d come right back to him.”
Sure enough, Smart hit Nash flashing to the middle of the lane for a layup. Johnson praised Nash, who entered the game the third leading scorer for OSU.
“Well, he’s bigger, he’s stronger, he’s quicker, and he has more of a skill set than anyone we have,” Johnson said of the 6-foot-7 Nash. “They do a good job of putting him in spots where he can score. But more importantly, they’re such an unselfish team. And their leader is a freshman — Smart — who doesn’t worry about scoring. He just worries about making sure his teammates are involved.”
Smart did just that during a 12-1 run to end the first half. TCU (10-17, 1-14) cut the lead to 24-20 with 6:15 remaining on Kyan Anderson’s 3-pointer before the Cowboys took off. OSU took advantage of Frogs’ turnovers and Nash’s ability to score from anywhere on the court. He had back-to-back turnaround jumpers and Smart hit a 3-pointer during OSU’s 14-4 run to finish the half up 38-24.
Nash didn’t slow down in the second half. He scored the first six points after the break, including a dunk courtesy of a no-look pass from Smart.
“I thought Le’Bryan’s performance was impressive,” OSU coach Travis Ford said. “I like how he got his points; the speed of his game. [TCU] decided they were just going to lock up our guards and not help at all, which created some driving angles and gave Nash some room and freedom to use his skills and he’s tough to stop if you’re going to do that.”
Anderson led the Frogs with 15 points while Devonta Abron had 12 points and nine rebounds. TCU struggled from the field, shooting 27.3 percent, including a particularly off night for the team’s four seniors, which combined to make 6 of 27 and committed nine of the 14 turnovers.
“We need to get more production,” Johnson said of his seniors. “The clock is running down for them, but [OSU] is a good basketball team. We played well in spurts, but obviously this has been the theme all year long — you can’t play well in spurts versus a team like that and expect to have any type of success.”