STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) – In a game filled with newcomers to Big 12 basketball, one of the few veterans made sure Oklahoma State came out on top.
Keiton Page scored 23 points, freshman Le’Bryan Nash matched his career high with 21 points and the Cowboys held off a late Texas Tech rally to open Big 12 play with a 67-59 victory on Wednesday night.
Page provided the final 12 points for Oklahoma State (8-6, 1-0 Big 12) and was the only Cowboy to score in the last 7 minutes.
After Oklahoma State’s 13-point lead dwindled to two, Page hit a step-back 3-pointer with 2:40 remaining to put the Cowboys up 60-55. After a miss on the next possession, Page curled around a screen to hit another 3-pointer from the left wing and give OSU (8-6, 1-0 Big 12) a six-point edge.
He added four free throws in the final 17 seconds to put the game away.
“Page is a very, very good player and he’s a dangerous player and he makes their whole team. … He really stood above everyone when the game counted the most,” Texas Tech coach Billy Gillispie said.
Freshman Jordan Tolbert had 13 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Red Raiders (7-6, 0-1). Ty Nurse, Jaye Crockett and Javarez Willis added 11 points apiece.
The game provided a fresh start for the two Big 12 teams who had the worst records in nonconference play. The Red Raiders had struggled with turnovers and become one of the nation’s most foul-prone teams, while Oklahoma State couldn’t get steady offense and lost three players — two who transferred and one to injury.
“It’s nice to start out on a good note, knowing that every game is going to be a battle for us,” Cowboys coach Travis Ford said.
Hardly anyone on either team had played in a Big 12 game before. Texas Tech returned three players for Gillispie’s first season back in the conference after a stint at Kentucky, and only two of the players in Oklahoma State’s rotation had Big 12 experience.
Of the newcomers, Nash — a McDonald’s All-American — was the most impressive.
Nash scored all 16 of his first-half points during a 24-7 surge that put the Cowboys in the lead to stay. Nash converted a three-point play after getting fouled during a scoop shot and added a two-handed putback dunk and 3-pointer in addition to a series of free throws during the hot stretch.
Nash also grabbed the rebound off of Cezar Guerrero’s missed 3-pointer and kicked it out for Page’s 3 that finished the spurt and made it 32-20 with 4:06 left before halftime.
“He played like a top player, like he’s supposed to play,” said Oklahoma State’s Markel Brown, who had 10 points off the bench. “If he can come out and do that for us, we can have a lot of chances to beat a lot of teams in this league.”
The Cowboys’ lead reached 13 early in the second half before the Red Raiders started to chip away.
Tolbert, the freshman power forward who leads Texas Tech with a 15.4-point average, could not take advantage after the Cowboys’ starting post players went to the bench with four fouls just over 3 minutes into the second half.
Tolbert connected on a jumper in the lane just after Michael Cobbins joined Philip Jurick on the bench but didn’t score again in 10 minutes with both out of the game.
Instead, it was reserves Terran Petteway and Crockett who led the Red Raiders back. Petteway and Crockett combined to score 12 points during Tech’s 16-5 comeback, and Willis cut the deficit to 57-55 when he connected on a scoop shot as he fell down in the lane with 3:14 to play.
That’s when Page took over. Coming out of a timeout, he got the ball on the left wing and took a few dribbles before a big step backward for his crucial 3-pointer.
Tolbert had a right-handed throwdown to get Tech back within 60-57 before another 3-pointer by Page that Nurse and Willis both tried to answer but missed.
“He’s an overachiever. He’s a kid that understands how to score,” Ford said.
Oklahoma State committed only two turnovers while winning its Big 12 opener for the sixth straight season. In recent weeks, the Cowboys had lost four of five while the team’s two top point guards, Fred Gulley and Reger Dowell, left the program and starting guard Jean-Paul Olukemi suffered a season-ending knee injury.
“We’ve been through a lot the last week or so with a lot of stuff and then obviously losing J.P,” Ford said. “We really had to go back to the drawing boards a little bit. We have guys out there playing positions they had never played, we have guys out there who have never played playing, and we were playing zone, which we had never played.”
Texas Tech, which had been ninth in the nation by making 50 percent of its shots, made a season-worst 39.6 percent.
“We’re an inside-out team and we made a few shots and all of a sudden we wanted to play away from the basket too much,” Gillispie said.
“All these things I’m talking about are my fault. They’re not anyone else’s other than mine because I have to keep on reinforcing the way that we’re going to play to give us the best chance to be successful. We’ve got to be tougher. We’ve got to be a lot tougher in the lane.”
The Red Raiders have lost nine straight at Gallagher-Iba Arena and fell to 3-20 all-time in the building, with one of the wins coming by forfeit. They are 5-11 in Big 12 openers.
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