Bragging rights are on the line, as the Oklahoma State Cowboys get together with the sixth-ranked NC State Wolfpack in the title game of the 2012 Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
As expected, considered the sixth-best team in the country in the early going, NC State has had little trouble taking care of business through the first three games of the season, winning each by no less than 17 points. Victories over Miami-Ohio and Penn State were precursors to the squad's 94-76 thumping of UMass in the second round of this tourney on Friday.
Just like the Wolfpack, Oklahoma State is also undefeated after three games but the outings for the Cowboys have not been nearly as decisive. The squad barely got by UC Davis in the season opener, 73-65, and then had to go to overtime to take out Akron (69-65) in the first round of this event. Two days ago, OSU scored a more comfortable 62-45 triumph over Tennessee in order to advance to the championship game.
The only previous meeting between these two teams also took place in tournament play, that being the NCAA Tournament back in 1991 as the Cowboys delivered a 73-64 win over NC State in College Park, Maryland.
Oklahoma State shot just 3-of-13 behind the three-point line on Friday against the Volunteers, but the team made up for it by controlling the action on the glass, 40-30, and limiting Tennessee to a woeful 26.0 percent from the floor and 5-of-23 shooting performance on the perimeter. Thanks to an 11-of-13 shooting effort at the free-throw line, Le-Bryan Nash tied for the game high with 17 points, matching Marcus Smart who came up one rebound shy of a double- double. Markel Brown also put together decent numbers with 13 points and eight boards, although he did make just three of his nine field goal chances in the outing. The Cowboys played without Jean-Paul Olukemi who was sidelined with a sprained left knee and again could be a spectator this evening as well, which means Nash (17.7 ppg) and Brown (14.7 ppg) again have to elevate their games, and it wouldn't hurt for Smart (13.0 ppg) to start finding the basket on a more regular basis in an effort to improve his 31.0 percent shooting accuracy from the field.
The Wolfpack continued to roll over the competition, with the latest victim being UMass as NC State shot an impressive 56.5 percent from the floor and 8- of-18 beyond the arc in an effort to offset their meager 16-of-31 showing at the free-throw line two days ago. T.J. Warren was the man of the hour for the 'Pack as he came off the bench to post a game-high 21 points in 29 minutes and lead five players in double figures. Richard Howell accounted for 19 points and nine rebounds, followed by Scott Wood and C.J. Leslie with 15 and 13 points, respectively, the latter also clearing eight boards. Lorenzo Brown not only dropped in 11 points, he also kept the offense running smooth with his game-high 10 assists, one more than the Minutemen had total in the bout. Spreading the wealth has been the mantra of the Wolfpack thus far with as many as six players averaging double-digit scoring, with the group putting out 87.7 ppg on not only 56.1 percent shooting from the floor, but 45.3 percent out on the perimeter. Warren has been huge in a reserve role with a team-best 17.0 ppg, while Brown (11.0 ppg) is handing out seven assists per contest.