A pair of nationally-ranked teams open their respective Big 12 Conference schedules against each other on Saturday afternoon, as No. 22 Oklahoma State pays a visit to No. 25 Kansas State.
Oklahoma State brings a 10-2 record into this clash, but the team is playing only its second true road game of the season (0-1). The Cowboys recently had a five-game win streak stopped in a 69-68 New Year's Eve loss at home to No. 10 Gonzaga. The setback brought an end to the team's season-long, six-game home stand, which began on the heels of its only other loss, at Virginia Tech on Dec. 1.
Kansas State has barely missed a beat in this transition year from former coach Frank Martin to current mentor Bruce Weber, the team sporting an 11-2 ledger, which includes a 9-0 mark at home, heading into the conference opener. The Wildcats are in the midst of a four-game win streak, with their latest triumph coming in a 70-50 rout of visiting South Dakota on New Year's Eve. This bout marks the finale of the team's three-game homestand, as it heads out on the road to battle new league foes West Virginia and TCU in the next week.
Kansas State owns a 72-48 lead in the all-time series with Oklahoma State, but the Cowboys are 13-5 versus the Wildcats since the formation of the Big 12 in 1996-97.
The key to Oklahoma State's success this season has been its play at the defensive end of the court, as foes are averaging just 56.6 ppg behind typical shooting efforts of only .368 overall, .301 from 3-point range, and .630 from the foul line. Add an offense that generates 71.8 ppg and favorable margins in both rebounding (+3.3) and turnovers (+3.2), and it's no wonder the team has jumped out to the sensational start it has. The team boasts four double-digit scorers in the form of Le'Bryan Nash (14.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg), Markel Brown (14.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg), Marcus Smart (13.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 5.2 apg) and Phil Forte (11.3 ppg, team-high 32 3-pointers). Smart scored 23 points, Brown had 16 and Forte tacked on 15, but those efforts went for naught as the Cowboys dropped a one- point decision to Gonzaga earlier in the week. Both teams were equally efficient from the field, but the Bulldogs went 15-of-18 at the charity stripe compared to 7-of-11 for the Pokes, who were also beaten badly on the boards (37-21). Despite committing nearly half as many turnovers as the Zags (15-8), OSU only outscored the visitors in points off miscues by a narrow 14-12 margin.
Kansas State enjoys many of the same statistical advantages as its counterpart here, as foes are averaging just 56.1 ppg in hitting a mere 38.4 percent of their total shots, which includes a dismal 26.4 percent showing from beyond the arc. Offensively, the Wildcats are producing 69.5 ppg behind a shooting effort that is lackluster at best (.420 overall, .327 3-point range, .652 free throw line). K-State owns the glass against most foes, outrebounding them by nearly nine caroms per contest, while goading them into more than 15 turnovers per outing. Rodney McGruder (13.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.2 apg) and Angel Rodriguez (10.1 ppg, 4.3 apg) are the only two double-digit scorers currently listed for KSU, but seven others average between 4.3 and 9.5 ppg. Nino Williams was high man for the 'Cats in their recent win over South Dakota, netting 16 points on a 7-of-10 shooting performance. McGruder came up one rebound shy of recording a double-double as he scored 15 points, and Shane Southwell and Will Spradling each handed out six assists while tallying 12 and 11 points, respectively. South Dakota was held to 32.7 percent field goal efficiency, and the Coyotes missed nine of their 11 long-range bombs. Rodriguez sat out the last game with a foot injury, and he is listed as questionable for this contest.