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OSU basketball: Le'Bryan Nash provides reminder of why he was a top recruit

OKLAHOMA STATE BASKETBALL — Le'Bryan Nash arrived at OSU amidst high expectations, even from his own coaches. And while his play hasn't been consistent, he's shown flashes of brilliance, particularly in the Cowboys' win over Missouri.
BY JOHN HELSLEY, Staff Writer, Published: January 27, 2012

Oklahoma State scored a statement win of sorts against Missouri, with Le'Bryan Nash producing his statement performance, so far, as a Cowboy.

Now, what's to be said of the Pokes and Nash heading to Texas A&M on Saturday and heading forward?

They are intrinsically linked — always have been — which goes a long way in explaining this OSU season.

High expectations were thrown on Nash as soon as he signed with the Cowboys in November of 2010. Even his own coaches called him a program-changing player. And when Nash excels, so do the Cowboys.

It just hasn't happened consistently. More like occasionally.

“The hype is going to be there because of where I came from and what I did when I was in high school,” Nash said. “I'm just trying to live up to it right now.”

And Wednesday's big game provides a reminder of why Nash ranked as a top-10 national recruit coming out of Lincoln High in Dallas. Not only did he score a career-best 27 points in OSU's 79-72 win over the No. 2-ranked Tigers, he carried the Cowboys to the upset, scoring 13 of 15 points during a 3 1/2-minute stretch that sent them ahead for good late.

For the first time, Nash looked like OSU's best player, even an elite player.

“You can tell that he is in the gym, working on his game and versatility,” said Mizzou's Ricardo Ratliff. “I mean, he's 6-7, 230 (pounds) and he's making three-pointers.”

In many ways, this is Keiton Page's team. The team's only senior, Page is the captain and the glue. Too often, he's been asked to shoulder the scoring load, when something like the Missouri game (12 points, five assists) is a more reasonable role for a 5-8 guard.

Page knows it, too, which is why he's hoping for more outings like Wednesday night from Nash.

“When he's shooting like that, get him the ball every single time,” Page said. “If LB keeps playing like that and we keep playing as a team, we can be a dangerous team in the Big 12.”

That will require consistency, which Nash has yet to demonstrate.

The rookie forward has put up double-digit scoring performances back-to-back just three times this season.

In the game before his breakout against the Tigers, Nash scored four in a loss to Kansas State. He was on against Iowa State the time before that, scoring 21 in OSU's near-miss denied by a buzzer-beating 3-pointer, but managed just six on 2-of-12 shooting the game before at Baylor.

It's been a frustrating ride, for the Cowboys and Nash.

“I've never had an up-and-down season like this,” Nash said. “My whole life, I've been up. I've never experienced the bad games like I've had.”

OSU is 6-2 when Nash scores 18 or more, and that includes the loss at Iowa State when the Cowboys led before a late Cyclones surge. And the Cowboys stand 10-10 overall and 3-4 in the Big 12 entering a 3 p.m. tip against the Aggies in College Station.

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