After a seven-day break for final exams, the 24th-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys return to the hardwood on Sunday afternoon when they host the Central Arkansas Bears at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
UCA has won three straight games to move above .500 for the first time this season. The streak started with a road victory at Eastern Illinois (74-72), and after returning home to defeat Tennessee-Martin (87-86), the Bears went back out on the road and registered perhaps their most impressive win of the year, downing Southeast Missouri State, 88-85.
Behind signature wins over Tennessee (62-45), NC State (76-56) and South Florida (61-49), Oklahoma State has been able to rise to No. 24 in the nation after starting the year unranked. The Cowboys most recently took down Missouri State last Saturday, 62-42, and they have now won an incredible 177 of their last 181 non-conference bouts.
These two programs have met just once before, with the Cowboys dismissing the Bears, 69-57, on Dec. 1, 2010.
In a game that featured 10 lead changes, UCA took a 69-68 advantage over SEMO on a Daouda Berete layup with just under seven minutes remaining and it was able to hold on down the stretch to capture the three-point victory. The Bears shot a modest 43.8 percent from the field, while SEMO made 50 percent of its field goal attempts, but they had an impressive night from 3-point range (9- of-21) and won the turnover battle, 17-9. Robert Crawford exploded in the victory, draining 12-of-15 from the field (including 7-of-9 from beyond the arc) for 39 points, more than double his previous career-high of 19. LaQuentin Miles (18 points) and Jarvis Garner (15 points, 10 rebounds) were also impressive. UCA has depended on the 3-ball all season, as it drains a Southland Conference-best 40.8 percent of its long-range tries. Crawford (15.2 ppg), Miles (13.9 ppg), Garner (13.7 ppg) and Jordan Harks (11.1 ppg) have all been integral components to the Bears' scoring offense (80.1 ppg).
Oklahoma State didn't have its best offensive performance in its last game, shooting 42.9 percent from the field, including a lowly 4-of-23 from 3-point range, but it held Missouri State to 33.3 percent shooting and dominated the boards, 46-22, in the 20-point win. Markel Brown led the way with 15 points, and Le'Bryan Nash and Michael Cobbins added 10 points apiece. The Cowboys have been relatively mediocre shooting the ball through eight games, making 43.1 percent of their field goal attempts for 69.4 ppg, but they are the only team in the Big 12 to have three players in the top-10 in scoring. Nash puts up 16.3 ppg and has cashed in at the foul line by making more than 81 percent of his attempts (48-of-59). Brown (14.0 ppg) and Smart (13.4 ppg) round out one of the most impressive guard trios in the nation. Smart has been more than just an effective scorer in his freshman year, as he ranks among the Big 12 leaders in rebounding (7.4 rpg), assists (5.0 apg), steals (2.6 spg) and blocks (1.1 bpg) as well. OSU has also been aided by the nation's 12th-ranked field goal percentage defense (.354).