STILLWATER — Le'Bryan Nash turned aggressor Monday night, taking the ball to the Baylor Bears, even taking it to their daunting big men.
And while the Cowboys lost, Nash provided a promising performance with a season-high 24 points and a searched-for passion and energy that isn't always detectable with the enigmatic sophomore.
Now, can he repeat the effort, if not necessarily all those points? And keep repeating it regularly, bolstering Oklahoma State's hopes for a high finish in the Big 12?
The answer is something his critics, his coaches and even Nash himself are eager to discover.
“It's just confidence with me,” Nash said. “If I miss a shot, don't get down on myself. That's the main thing about me, just playing hard.”
That seemingly simple concept — playing hard — has been the source of much angst since the former McDonald's All-American first started revealing an up-and-down pattern of play a year ago as a freshman.
Excitement and anticipation accompanied a player who won dunk championships and ranked as one the nation's elite prospects, recruited by the likes of Kansas, Kentucky, Syracuse, Texas and others. The half-brother of former Cowboy Byron Eaton chose OSU, stoking hopes of a rebirth for the program.
And Nash has had his moments, like a 27-point barrage in an upset of then-No. 2 Missouri last year, a 23-point effort in OSU's signature win of this season against North Carolina State.
And let's not forget, Nash was good enough overall to earn Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors for 2011-12.
Yet, there's also something missing in Nash's game at times.
He knows it. His coaches now it. And Cowboys fans surely know it, evident as many engaged in a Twitter attack on Nash following a close loss at Kansas State, when he contributed just six points and three rebounds while generally seeming disengaged.
Cowboys coach has long professed that Nash is misunderstood, that his body language betrays a likable young man who is still laboring to ditch 15 years of bad habits.
“I've watched him since high school,” said former college coach and current ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla. “I saw this coming.