Travis Ford hasn't shown video clips of last year's Virginia Tech game to Le'Bryan Nash.
And maybe he shouldn't, at the risk of messing with Nash's current mojo.
That Nash — the one who went scoreless and looked lost and apathetic in one of the team's two losses to the Hokies a year ago — has been replaced by the new and so-far improved Nash.
This Nash, in his second season, shows signs of a new maturity and production level, a major component in Oklahoma State's rise to No. 15 in the rankings.
“Last year,” Nash said, “I'd play three good games, then the next thing you know, I'd have a five-point game. I'm just trying to stay consistent.”
Through five games, all Cowboys wins, Nash has epitomized consistency.
And Nash's focus on being reliable isn't just for his own benefit, it's for the benefit of the Cowboys. When he's on, OSU is good — Big 12 contender good.
Entering Saturday's trip to Virginia Tech — the Cowboys' first true road game — Nash has scored at least 16 points each time out, contributing to his team-leading 19.2 scoring average. Those points are coming differently, too, with Nash now willing to work inside when necessary, an approach he resisted as a freshman, when he preferred to drift around the perimeter and fire up jump shots and 3-pointers.
The evidence is in his frequent trips to the foul line, where he's already attempted 48 free throws, making 41 for a percentage of 85.4, contributing heavily to his strong start.
“I'm trying to lead the NCAA in free-throw attempts,” said Nash, who is also averaging 6.4 rebounds a game. “I'm just taking what the defense gives me. And I'm playing with my teammates. My teammates give me the ball in good situations, and when you have a scoring mentality, then defenses can't stop you. All they can do is foul you.”
In leading the Cowboys to the tournament title at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, a run that featured a 76-56 rout of then-No. 6 North Carolina State, Nash scored 58 points in three games and made the All-Tournament Team, attempting but two 3-pointers and making 32 of 38 free throws. He went 13-of-13 from the line against N.C. State.
“I'm glad to hear him say that, about leading the country in free throws, because it's something he and I have talked a lot about,” Ford said. “He should be shooting 10 or 11 free throws a game. And he can make eight or nine of those. That tells me, if he's getting to the foul line, not only is he getting points, it tells me his mind is right. Because he's playing to his strengths.
“I love his 3s; I don't want to take them from him. Some games he may not take any, like in Puerto Rico, where he took two for the whole tournament. Or there may be games where he takes four or five. But this time last year, he was trying to figure out how he was going to get 3s off — ‘How many am I going to shoot tonight?'”
That was that Nash. With a lineup bolstered by newcomers and freshman Marcus Smart playing the role of facilitator, this Nash seems much more comfortable in his role — any role.
“Playing together and winning games, you can't beat that,” Nash said. “It means happy coaches and happy teammates.
“We've got a great chemistry. We love playing with each other.”
Oklahoma State at Virginia Tech
* When: 1 p.m. Saturday
* Where: Cassell Coliseum, Blacksburg, Va.
* Radio: KXXY-FM 96.1
* TV: None
Three things to know
* The Hokies, 6-0 for the first time since 1982, are averaging 87 points per game. OSU has not allowed as many as 65 points in any game.
* Cowboys center Philip Jurick, who needed 12 stitches to close his lower lip after taking an elbow in practice Wednesday, is questionable.
* Starting forward Michael Cobbins, who hasn't played since the opener due to a fractured toe, is expected to return.