The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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January 26, 2014

Nash’s 29 leads No. 11 Oklahoma State past WVU

STILLWATER, Okla. — West Virginia’s Eron Harris was nearly unstoppable when he was on the court.

Problem was, he, like several of his teammates, wasn’t on the court nearly enough against No. 11 Oklahoma State.

The sophomore guard scored 21 points and made 6 of 7 3-point attempts, but he played just 21 minutes before fouling out as the Cowboys defeated West Virginia 81-75 on Saturday. In all, the Mountaineers committed 32 fouls and four West Virginia players fouled out.

Harris said the foul trouble was no excuse for letting the game slip away.

“We have enough good players to win with anybody in the game,” he said. “Our walk-ons even got to play today, and I have 100 percent confidence in all of our players. It really doesn’t matter who was in the game, we had the game regardless.”

Le’Bryan Nash scored a career-high 29 points and had nine rebounds, a performance that bothered Harris.

“I just felt like at a certain point we have to say, ‘He’s not going to get the ball,”’ Harris said. “I think we have got to make a bigger effort to do that because he was their only inside presence.”

Juwan Staten scored 19 points for the Mountaineers (11-9, 3-4 Big 12), who have lost four of five.

Markel Brown had 15 points and 10 rebounds and Phil Forte added 13 points for Oklahoma State (16-3, 4-2).

The Cowboys won despite a subpar performance from star guard Marcus Smart. The Big 12’s leading scorer finished with a season-low five points on 1-for-7 shooting and played just 25 minutes before fouling out.

Oklahoma State made just 4 of 24 3-point attempts and was outrebounded 41-35, but held the Mountaineers to 37 percent shooting.

The Cowboys had a week to stew over their loss at No. 8 Kansas the previous Saturday, but they still came out flat against the Mountaineers. Oklahoma State missed its first four shots as West Virginia opened a 9-4 lead.

Smart scored his first points on two free throws with 10:42 left in the first half.

West Virginia led 25-18 in the first half when Smart picked up his second foul, but Oklahoma State rallied without him. A three-point play by Nash sparked a run, and the Cowboys tied the game at 26 on two free throws by Brown with 6:15 left in the first half. Another three-point play by Nash gave Oklahoma State the lead with 3:45 left in the first half.

The Cowboys finished the half with a flurry. Brown threw down a monster two-handed putback dunk with 18 seconds left. Forte then stole the ball and, while lying on the ground under pressure, found Nash under the basket for a thunderous reverse jam to give the Cowboys a 42-35 lead. Nash had 18 points and seven rebounds in the first half.

Harris picked up his fourth foul with just over 15 minutes remaining and West Virginia leading 46-44.

Brown’s near 360-degree dunk ignited the crowd and tied the score with just under 14 minutes remaining.

Smart found Nash with a behind-the-head pass for a basket and a foul. Nash’s free throw gave Oklahoma State a 66-60 lead with 7:11 to play.

Harris made a 3-pointer to cut Oklahoma State’s lead to 70-67, but on OSU’s next possession, Brown attacked the rim and scored while drawing Harris’ fifth foul with 3:35 to go. A three-point play by Brian Williams with 2:01 remaining gave the Cowboys a 75-67 lead.

Nash fouled out with 1:40 to go, and West Virginia rallied one last time. The Mountaineers could have tied it in the final minute, but Nathan Adrian missed a 3-pointer. Forte made 6 of 6 free throws in the final 37 seconds to seal the win for the Cowboys.

West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said not having Harris down the stretch hurt his team.

“You know, it’s hard when we lose Eron,” Huggins said. “Eron gets 21 in 21 minutes, so losing him for us is like losing Marcus Smart.”

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