STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — Keiton Page tried to explain to his Oklahoma State teammates the sensation of fans rushing the Gallagher-Iba Arena court to celebrate a big upset.
With freshman swingman Le’Bryan Nash flashing the brilliance that made him a McDonald’s All-American, they got to experience it for themselves.
Nash scored a career-high 27 points, Brian Williams added a career-best 22 and Oklahoma State knocked off No. 2 Missouri 79-72 on Wednesday night, handing the Tigers their second loss of the season.
“Le’Bryan played at a very high speed tonight, a very high gear. All of his moves were a little bit more explosive,” Cowboys coach Travis Ford said.
Nash scored 13 points during a 17-4 burst that sent the Cowboys (10-10, 3-4 Big 12) into the lead in the final 4 minutes and the Tigers didn’t have a response.
Nash hit a jumper and a 3-pointer to get it going, then nailed another 3 from the left side to give the Cowboys a 65-64 lead with 3:23 to play. He connected on another 29 seconds later and ran to the opposite end of the court when Missouri (18-2, 5-2) called timeout to encourage a student section that was already hopping up and down to bring it on.
When the clock hit zero, the students rushed the court and huddled around Oklahoma State’s players at midcourt.
Earlier in the week, Page fielded questions from his younger teammates about his experiences from an upset of top-ranked Kansas two seasons ago, hoping for a similar result.
“A lot of them just wanted to know what it was like for the students to run on the floor,” Page said. “My answer’s a lot different for them. I’m 5-9. They can see, they can breathe when it happens.”
Ricardo Ratliffe had 25 points and 12 rebounds to lead Missouri, which allowed the Cowboys to shoot a season-best 59 percent. They hadn’t surpassed 49 percent against an NCAA opponent all season.
“I thought that our focus was not where it needed to be in order to win a game like this on the road,” Tigers coach Frank Haith said.
Missouri got steals on three straight possessions to fuel a 10-2 run in the first 5 minutes of the second half, taking a 48-41 lead when Ratliffe waited out two defenders leaping prematurely to block his shot at the left block before scoring the basket.
Ratliffe’s three-point play off a spinning bucket at the right block gave the Tigers their largest lead at 53-45 with 14:22 to play, but it didn’t last.
“I expected it to be a hard-fought game,” Haith said. “This is Big 12 basketball. There’s good players.
“We didn’t do what we needed to do to finish the game out once we got control of the game.”
Nash had a bucket off a baseline inbounds pass and another off a post-up move against Kim English to get Oklahoma State within striking distance.
Markel Brown added another energizing play with a right-handed dunk off an alley-oop but got called for his second technical foul for getting in Matt Pressey’s face and was ejected. Marcus Denmon hit the two free throws from the technical and Ratliffe added two more off a third-chance opportunity to push the lead back to 60-53, but the Cowboys didn’t miss a beat.
After Nash’s big spurt, Williams had a two-handed dunk in transition and a three-point play to help preserve the lead down the stretch.
Nash had scored 21 points four times this season but was coming off a rough performance when he had only four points and got himself into foul trouble.
“I was trying to get aggressive in the second half,” Nash said. “I talked to my coaches and they were like, ‘Don’t try to let the ball come to you. Go get the ball.’
“Basically, that’s what my teammates did. My teammates got me the ball in good situations and once it started rolling, the shots started falling.”
Ford credited a renewed commitment from Nash, who stuck around for extra shots following shootaround instead of joining his teammates to eat.
“When he’s shooting like that, give him the ball every single time. He was making big plays on the offensive end and the defensive end,” Page said. “If (Nash) keeps playing like that and we keep playing as a team, we could be a dangerous team in the Big 12.”
Denmon finished with 17 points but on 4-for-16 shooting. Phil Pressey, the Big 12′s assists leader, matched his season low with two.
It continued a rough stretch for Top 25 Missouri teams in Gallagher-Iba Arena. The Tigers have lost six straight games while ranked in Stillwater, dating back to 1992, and may not be visiting again anytime soon with next season’s move to the Southeastern Conference.
Four of those six losses have come at the hands of unranked Oklahoma State teams.
Brown provided a boost right from the start with a thunderous right-handed jam on Oklahoma State’s first possession after winning the tip. He picked up a technical foul 90 seconds into the game that seemed inconsequential at the time but eventually led to his dismissal.
OSU made an uncharacteristic 57 percent of its shots while leading most of the first half. Page’s step-back jumper from the left elbow provided the Cowboys a 37-36 lead at the break.
The first half marked the third-best shooting performance in a half this season for Oklahoma State, the Big 12′s worst shooting team at 41 percent, only to be outdone by a 62 percent mark after halftime.
“It’s a huge win for us. It’s a big win,” Page said. “It just shows us what we’re capable of. It shows us we can play with anybody. We still have a long ways to go. … This team’s hungry. This team’s hungry for wins.”