Texas-Oklahoma St. Preview
Oklahoma State might need to win out to have a shot at the Big 12 title.
While its last two regular-season games present difficult challenges, taking care of business against Texas shouldn't prove as tough.
The No. 15 Cowboys try to stay unbeaten at home against unranked opponents Saturday as they go for their first sweep of the sub-.500 Longhorns in nine seasons.
Sitting third in the conference, Oklahoma State (21-6, 11-4) remains one game behind No. 6 Kansas and No. 13 Kansas State with three to play. The Cowboys close the regular season next Saturday against the Wildcats after a road game Wednesday versus Iowa State, which is tied for fourth in the Big 12 and lost by two in Stillwater earlier this season.
Oklahoma State first needs to get by Texas (13-15, 5-10), which had lost all of its road games before beating last-place TCU in its most recent one. The Cowboys had dropped 11 of 12 in the series before taking the last two, including a 72-59 road victory Feb. 9. Texas native Marcus Smart scored 23 points and Markel Brown added 17.
Oklahoma State hasn't swept the Longhorns since winning all three matchups in 2003-04, including a victory in the Big 12 title game.
The Cowboys have to like their chances Saturday given their dominance at home, where their only losses came 69-68 to No. 2 Gonzaga on Dec. 31 and 68-67 to Kansas in double overtime Feb. 20. Oklahoma State has won 51 of 52 home games against unranked foes, including 18 straight by an average of 15.3 points dating to last season.
The Cowboys are coming off a 64-47 win at TCU on Wednesday as sophomore standout Le'Bryan Nash had a career-high 28 points. Oklahoma State shot 55.1 percent and limited the Horned Frogs to 27.3.
"We needed to be locked in to get our 21st win," coach Travis Ford told the Big 12's official website. "That's what we were here for. If you're not ready to play and focused ... these games can jump up and bite you."
Smart, averaging 14.7 points to rank second among Big 12 freshmen, had scored at least 10 in 10 straight games before posting nine on 3-of-10 shooting Wednesday. He still made his presence felt with five assists and three steals.
"In my opinion that's as versatile a team as we have in our league," Horned Frogs coach Trent Johnson said. "They can play fast. They can play slow. We didn't have an answer for Nash, but make no mistake about it, the key to that whole thing is what Smart does. He's special."
The Longhorns trailed by 22 points with 7:54 to play before pulling out a 92-86 overtime win over Oklahoma on Wednesday. Sophomore Myck Kabongo scored a career-high 31, including a falling 15-foot jumper to beat the buzzer in regulation.
Kabongo, who served a 23-game NCAA suspension for providing false and misleading information about accepting airfare and personal training instruction, has averaged 18.6 points on 51.8 percent shooting in five games since returning. Texas is 3-2 over that stretch.
"Anything that coach (Rick Barnes) asks me to do, he'll be the one to tell you that I'll be willing to do it," Kabongo said. "I've been practicing with these guys and these guys have been there for me. ... They know what I'm capable of doing. We work hard as a team and that's all I'm worried about, the team. I don't feel pressure."
Texas, 1-7 against Top 25 teams, has dropped eight straight road games to ranked opponents by an average of 14.0 points.