Improved Nash off to hot start
BY KELLY HINES World Sports Writer
Sunday, November 25, 2012
11/25/12 at 6:48 AM
STILLWATER - Two weeks into his sophomore season at Oklahoma State, Le'Bryan Nash appears to be enjoying himself more than he did a year ago.
"He's smiling a lot more," coach Travis Ford said. "I think he's lightened up, not taking himself so serious."
Nash has reason to smile. After a disappointing debut as a freshman, he's off to a better start. He's had a team-high point total in each of the Cowboys' four wins and averaged more than 20 points a game in Puerto Rico last week.
"I think I did great," Nash said. "I'm just maturing from last year. I understand that we want to win. I'm doing whatever it takes."
Often criticized for his lack of effort, Nash displayed more assertiveness in Puerto Rico, where OSU won its first regular-season tournament since 2009 and earned a No. 20 ranking in the Associated Press Top 25.
"I loved his flow. I loved his pace of the game. I loved his shot selection," Ford said. "I just really liked the pace and the level of intensity he played with and how he played within the team concept.
"If he continues to do that, that's going to make our team pretty good."
Nash attempted only two 3-pointers over the three games, instead using his athleticism to attack and get to the foul line. In a 62-45 victory against Tennessee on Friday, he hit 11-of-13 free throws.
"We hope to get him to the foul line like eight times a game," Ford said. "He did a little bit better than that. We hope he can make six or seven of those, at least.
"The more times he's getting to the foul line, then we're doing the things we need to do. That's definitely a point of emphasis."
Adding freshman phenom point guard Marcus Smart has already benefited Nash. In addition to his five assists per game, Smart brings a high level of energy that seems contagious for his teammates.
"He kind of sets the standard," Ford said. "If you don't work that hard, it kind of makes you look foolish out there. You'll really be exposed."
The combination of Smart and Nash as well as the contributions of Markel Brown and Phil Forte has softened the blow of injuries to the Cowboys' inside game. Swingmen Brian Williams and Jean-Paul Olukemi are done for the year, while big men Marek Soucek (knee) and Michael Cobbins (toe) are likely out for at least another week.
Heading into Sunday's home game against Portland State, OSU didn't have enough players to scrimmage in practice.
"Obviously we thought we'd have some depth and we could use this time to get better, use this time to really come out of Puerto Rico (saying), 'These are the things we need to work on,' " Ford said. "Right now we're trying to sustain it, and that's the tough part."
But if there's a silver lining to the early-season adversity, it's that Nash has realized he needs to take on a bigger role.
"When you're the scorer of this team, you've got more jobs," he said. "You've got to help this team get baskets.
"That's what I'm doing this year, trying to focus on where I can get my shots at and also on the defensive end."
Portland State (1-2)
|Ht. ||Pt.|| Reb.|
|F|| Parker|| 6-5|| 11.0 ||4.7|
|F ||Moore|| 6-8 ||9.3|| 5.0|
|G ||McMullan ||5-11|| 8.3 ||2.0|
|G ||Winston|| 6-1 ||14.7 ||4.3|
|G|| Harthun|| 6-3|| 9.7 ||2.3|
Oklahoma State (4-0)
|Ht. ||Pt.|| Reb.|
|F ||Nash ||6-7|| 19.0|| 6.8|
|F ||Murphy|| 6-8 ||4.0 ||7.3|
|C ||Jurick|| 6-11|| 2.8 ||4.8|
|G ||Brown|| 6-3 ||12.5 ||4.3|
|G ||Smart ||6-4 ||14.8 ||5.0*|
*assists per game
Kelly Hines 918-581-8452