The inability of the Missouri men's basketball team to set the tone on defense in the first half caused them to struggle throughout Wednesday night’s game against Oklahoma State.
Although senior forward Ricardo Ratliffe contributed 25 points, 12 rebounds, a steal and a block for the Tigers, they weren’t able to outplay Oklahoma State and lost 79-72 in Stillwater, Okla.
The loss came in the Tigers' first game since gaining a No. 2 national ranking and drops the team to 18-2 overall and 5-2 in Big 12 Conference play.
With less than three-and-a-half minutes left to play, Le’Bryan Nash, a 6-foot-7 freshman for Oklahoma State, sank back-to-back 3-pointers to put the Cowboys ahead 68-65, and Missouri never regained the lead.
“He made big shots. He made big plays,” Missouri coach Frank Haith said of Nash in a radio interview.
Nash scored a career-high 27 points and added four rebounds and four assists.
"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."
Redshirt freshman Brian Williams, a 6-foot-5-inch guard and forward shot 10-for-12 from the free-throw line and chalked up 22 points for the Cowboys.
Though Missouri had only 10 turnovers to Oklahoma State’s 16, Oklahoma State was able to outrebound Missouri 32-30.
“We gambled, we had no resistance, and we let them take the ball wherever they wanted to take the ball,” Haith said. “It was just not a good performance from us on the defensive end, and that’s where it all started.”
Sophomore guard Phil Pressey scored 10 points for the Tigers but only had two assists. Senior guard Marcus Denmon scored 17 points, but was 4-for-16 shooting. The Tigers shot only 40 percent from the field compared to Oklahoma State’s almost 60 percent shooting.
“We just didn’t do what we needed to do to win this game, to win a road game,” Haith said. “We didn’t have the kind of mindset we needed to have to win the kind of game like this tonight.”
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 the Cowboys weren't done. Led by Nash, they went on a 17-4 burst in the final 4 minutes to thrill the home crowd, which stormed the court at Gallagher-Iba Arena after the upset.
It continued a rough stretch for Top 25 Missouri teams in Stillwater. The Tigers have lost six straight games while ranked in Stillwater, dating back to 1992, and might 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. It was the Cowboys' biggest win since taking down top-ranked Kansas two seasons ago.
— The Associated Press contributed