Stillwater, Okla. LeBryan Nash says he'd been waiting for the first game of his college basketball career his whole life. On Friday night, the most anticipated freshman recruit in recent Oklahoma State history gave the Cowboys a glimpse of what to expect.
Nash led the Cowboys with 13 points and Oklahoma State won its 18th straight season opener, routing Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 71-39.
Reserve point guard Cezar Guerrero added 12 points for the Cowboys, who also have won 38 straight home openers and 33 straight games at Gallagher-Iba Arena against nonconference foes.
"A good first game is what it was," Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said. "It's over at this point and we move on. There are things we can learn on tape. It's good to just have it over with."
Much attention was focused on Nash on Friday. The 6-foot-7 forward displayed an array of moves, throwing down a dunk, making a tough fade-away 8-foot jumper over a defender and stepping beyond the 3-point line at times, going 1 of 3 from behind the arc. Nash went 5 of 14 from the field and added five rebounds and two steals in 28 minutes of playing time.
Nash said his role with the Cowboys is to "be really aggressive when I have the ball in my hands and just try to feed off my teammates. They tell me to score the ball. They put me in good spots to score the ball, so I give credit to my team. They put me in the right spots and let me have a great game."
Ford said Nash played "not bad for his first game" but noted there's room for improvement.
"He didn't shoot the ball extremely well from the field, but that's all going to come with time, as far as understanding how hard you've got to play and shot selection and things like that," Ford said. "I was more concerned about his defense, which was better (than in two exhibition games). I thought he did a better job blocking out."
Oklahoma State - picked in the preseason to finish seventh in the Big 12 Conference - committed only six turnovers, its lowest total in almost two seasons. And the Cowboys' defense looked in midseason form, limiting the Islanders to 32.7 percent field-goal shooting and recording eight blocked shots, four of those by Michael Cobbins.
The Islanders' point total was the lowest by an Oklahoma State opponent since Northwestern Oklahoma State, an NAIA program, scored 35 on Dec. 21, 2004.
"We haven't been challenged yet physically, as far as a team that matches our physicality and athleticism," Ford said. "We'll see how that goes when we play against some really good low-post scorers. But I do like the intensity level our defense is playing at. You just look at the numbers. . We're getting after it defensively, and that's where it starts."
Chris Hawkins-Mast led the Islanders with 14 points. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, under new coach Willis Wilson, has only three scholarship players back from last season's squad.
"This is our first step," said Wilson, a longtime coach at Rice. "We obviously have a long way to go. So much of what we have to work on are just the little things. .... You have to lay a foundation and build from there and we are kind of the exact opposite right now. We are not as stable as we need to be to compete with teams like this."
The outcome was decided early, as Jean-Paul Olukemi hit a 3-pointer to start a 9-0 run by Oklahoma State to open the game. Olukemi and Nash each scored eight points in the first half as the Cowboys raced to a 31-11 lead.
The Islanders shot 18.5 percent from the field (5 of 27) in the first half and only recorded consecutive baskets on one occasion. That pulled them within 17-8, but Oklahoma State answered with a 9-2 spurt to go ahead 26-10.
The Cowboys led by as many as 32 points in the second half.
The 32-point margin of victory is Oklahoma State's largest since a 93-61 win over Southern on Nov. 18, 2009, a span of 65 games.
Olukemi finished with 11 points and three steals for the Cowboys, while Fred Gulley had seven points and four steals and Philip Jurick came off the bench to grab 10 rebounds.