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Nash Leads OSU Past West Virginia

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STILLWATER, Oklahoma -

It wasn't Oklahoma State's day on Saturday but, thankfully for the Cowboys, nobody told that to Le'Bryan Nash.

Foul trouble played a substantial factor in Stillwater against West Virginia, Marcus Smart and Phil Forte turned in memorably bad performances simultaneously and OSU shot just 16.7 percent from 3-point range in a game that featured 10 ties and nine lead changes.

But with all the negatives stacking up against the Pokes, Nash came through with a major positive to help lift No. 11 OSU to a hard-fought 81-75 victory against the Mountaineers.

The Dallas native scored a career-high 29 points and grabbed nine rebounds and he did it with impressive efficiency, shooting 10-of-13 from the field and 9-of-14 from the foul line.

Nash was particularly effective in the first half where he scored 18 points, including an emphatic one-handed tomahawk dunk in the waning seconds of the half to cap a 10-0 run for the Pokes to take a seven-point lead into the break despite trailing for the vast majority of the period.

But for as good as his first half was, he didn't shy away from stepping up to the challenge when he was needed again in the second with his team on the ropes. The Cowboy lead evaporated into a one-point deficit with 10:11 remaining in the contest but Nash had an answer.

LB responded with an old-fashioned three-point play. And then another. And another. The junior forward cashed in on three and-one opportunities in the span of four possessions and finished things off with a mid-range jumper for a Nash-only 11-2 run that gave Oklahoma State (16-3, 4-2 Big 12) an eight-point lead with 5:51 remaining.

While that proved to be all the scoring he would do before fouling out of the contest with nearly two minutes left, it gave OSU the cushion it needed to hold off the Mountaineers for the second time in the past two weeks to sweep an action-packed season series.

West Virginia (11-9, 3-4) trimmed the gap to just three with 1:40 on the clock but the Pokes clamped down defensively and put the game away from the free-throw line, where Forte converted 6-of-6 from the line in the final 37 seconds.

While Forte might have come through from the charity stripe late, it was far from the performance the sophomore had a week ago at Kansas. Forte finished with 13 points but eight of those came from the line, as he managed to shoot just 2-of-12 from the floor and 1-of-9 from 3-point range.

And his former high school teammate had it even worse. Smart has had a handful of poor showings in his two-year career, but Saturday might have been the smallest impact he's made in a game in his time in Stillwater.

Smart was dogged by severe trouble, limiting him to 25 minutes, but even in the stretches where he was on the floor he struggled to get into a rhythm, stemming largely from obvious frustrations.

Smart was just 1-for-7 from the floor and finished with a season-low four points, five rebounds and four assists with three turnovers before fouling out. And he had a particularly uncharacteristic moment of rage that didn't go unnoticed. With roughly three-and-a-half minutes remaining in the contest and saddled with four fouls, Smart mouthed off to coach Travis Ford and stormed off to the locker room after kicking a chair. He returned a few minutes later only to foul out and head straight back to the bench.

It might be the sign of an unfortunate trend for the All-American guard, who is not just 3-of-19 shooting in his past two games and is losing his composure more frequently on the court, which could pose a significant problem with a big-time Bedlam matchup looming on Monday.

And it wasn't just Smart who was on the business end of the whistles at Gallagher-Iba Arena. Overall, 56 fouls were called, 64 free throws were attempted and six players fouled out, four of them being Mountaineers, so it wasn't as if Smart had been singled out.

That said, there were positives for the Cowboys other than Nash in Saturday's victory. Stevie Clark and Brian Williams each chipped in 10 points, while Markel Brown had a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds, albeit shooting just 5-of-13 from the floor. Brown also turned in a pair of sure-fire SportsCenter highlight-reel dunks, including a high-flying 360-slam on a breakaway in the second half.

Eron Harris had 21 points and Juwan Staten added 19 for the Mountaineers, who have now lost four out of their past five contests. And it isn't looking any brighter for West Virginia, as Saturday's loss started a run of six-straight games against ranked opponents.

Overall the Cowboys shot 44.1 percent from the field but struggled with a 4-of-24 outing from the 3-point line. However, the defense didn't make things any easier in WVU, which managed to shoot just 36.8 percent for the game and turned the ball over on 15 occasions

Oklahoma State held a 32-12 edge in points in the paint and outscored the Mountaineers 23-14 in points off turnovers.

Next up for the Cowboys is a significant matchup with Bedlam rival and 25th-ranked Oklahoma in Norman at 8 p.m. on Monday.

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