Pokes and Panthers mix it up in Big Apple

Playing at New York's famed Madison Square ranked Pittsburgh Panthers today in the Carquest Auto Parts Classic.

Oklahoma State is 6-2 on the season, with its only two losses (Stanford and Virginia Tech) coming during the NIT Season Tip-Off at MSG right around Thanksgiving. OSU is 18-11 all-time at Madison Square Garden, which includes a 74-63 win over Pittsburgh in the semifinals of the 1991 Preseason NIT. The Cowboys, who are 4-1 all-time against ranked teams at the Garden, are riding a three-game win streak after taking out Tulsa, Langston and Missouri State following their most recent visit to New York City.

Pittsburgh is 8-1 to this point in the campaign, although the team hasn't exactly played a tough schedule. The team's lone loss was a shocker, as Long Beach State came to the Steel City and claimed an 86-76 decision on November 16, and the Panthers' most recent win took place on Tuesday as they whipped visiting VMI in a 97-70 final. Pitt is 26-13 at Madison Square Garden since the 2000-01 season, with the majority of those games coming in Big East Conference Tournaments, of which the team has won twice (2003, 2008). The Panthers have been victorious in 14 of their last 21 games at MSG.

Pittsburgh owns a narrow 5-4 advantage in the all-time series with Oklahoma State, and the Panthers have won the last two meetings.

Oklahoma State averages 71.1 ppg in hitting 43.4 percent of its total shots, but just 32.3 percent of its three-point tries. The team boasts three double- digit scorers, but Le'Bryan Nash sits atop the heap at just 12.6 ppg. He adds 5.0 rpg to his stat line, with the team logging 38.0 rpg -- just 1.9 more per game that the opposition on average. Keiton Page (12.0 ppg, .419 three-point FG percentage, .842 free-throw percentage) and Markel Brown (10.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg) have been effective players for coach Travis Ford's club, which has relied more on defensive pressure than offensive prowess to be successful here in the early going. Foes are generating just 61.5 ppg on typical shooting efforts of .375 overall and .288 from beyond the arc. Coming up with more than 15 turnovers per outing has helped as well. Nash tallied 19 points in helping the Pokes overcome a 12-point, second-half deficit in their recent win over Missouri State. Page added 15 points, and Jean-Paul Olukemi chipped in 13 while pounding the glass for a club-best nine caroms -- the second straight game in which he led the team in rebounding. A 31-19 edge in points from the foul line played an integral role in the outcome.

Pittsburgh also has had three double-digit scorers on which to rely most nights, led by the backcourt duo of Ashton Gibbs and Tray Woodall. Unfortunately, Woodall (14.1 ppg, 8.3 apg) recently suffered an injury that is expected to keep him out of action for at least the next few weeks, leaving Gibbs (18.9 ppg, 3.9 apg) and frontcourt standout Nasir Robinson (13.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg) to carry on. Pitt fans are thankful that coach Jamie Dixon has done a nice job making sure the cupboard isn't left empty should one of his stars go down. The team is averaging a robust 80.1 ppg in hitting just shy of 50 percent of its total shots, and nearly 44 percent of its three-point attempts. The Panthers dominate the glass to the tune of a +12.4 rebounding margin, but they are -1.8 in turnovers. The offensive production may wane a bit without Woodall, although you couldn't tell in the recent win over VMI as Gibbs poured in 20 points, Robinson logged a monster double-double with 19 points and 14 rebounds, and reserves John Johnson and Dante Taylor chipped in 13 and 10 points, respectively. A whopping 60-31 advantage on the boards demonstrated just how much better the Panthers were in that clash.