Jayhawks set sights on Cowboys in Big 12 brawl

The second-ranked Kansas Jayhawks put a few lengthy win streaks on the line on Saturday, as they welcome the Oklahoma State Cowboys to the Allen Fieldhouse for a Big 12 affair.

Bill Self's Jayhawks are playing as well as any team in the nation, boasting of an national-best 18-game win streak. Kansas is 19-1 on the season, with the lone loss coming back on Nov. 13 against Michigan State (67-64). The team also boasts of the nation's second-longest homecourt win streak, now sitting at 33 games. KU was last in action on Monday, edging out West Virginia on the road, 61-56. With the win over the Mountaineers, Kansas is a perfect 7-0 in Big 12 play, with its sights set on a ninth straight league crown.

Travis Ford's Cowboys have had a solid campaign to this point, as Oklahoma State comes in with a 14-5 overall record. Things have been a bit rougher since Big 12 play began though, with OSU sporting a 4-3 record in league play. Still, the team has a bit of momentum with wins in two straight and three of its last four games. The Cowboys outlasted an offensively-talented Iowa State squad on Wednesday in a 78-76 shootout.

Kansas holds a huge 106-53 advantage in the series with Oklahoma State and has won four straight and five of the last six meetings overall. The Jayhawks are 58-10 against the Cowboys in Lawrence and have won each of the last 16 meetings at the Allen Fieldhouse dating back to 1990.

Marcus Smart capped off a strong offensive performance with a layup with just over three seconds remaining, lifting the Cowboys to a narrow win over the Cyclones this week. Smart led five Cowboys in double figures with a game-high 21 points. Le'Bryan Nash had a big game as well with 18 points, followed by Phil Forte (17 pts), Markel Brown (12 pts) and Michael Cobbins (10 pts). Still, it was a nip-and-tuck game that featured nine ties and 15 lead changes.

The offensive output was a little more than the team is used to this season, with OSU averaging 71.1 ppg. The defensive effort against ISU however, was far from the team's season average, as Oklahoma State has been much more stingy, limiting foes to just 59.2 ppg, on .386 shooting. Brown leads four Cowboys with double-digit scoring averages at 14.8 ppg. Smart is a scorer (13.6 ppg), deft distributor (4.6 apg) and superb defender (2.8 spg). Nash (13.5 ppg) and Forte (11.9 ppg) round out the top scoring threats on the roster.

The Jayhawks have benefited from a veteran core that features four seniors in the starting lineup to go along with a freshman sensation in Ben McLemore. The 6-foot-5 youngster leads the team in scoring at 16.1 ppg, while leading the Big 12 in free-throw percentage (.867) and ranking second in the league in 3- point accuracy (.451). Center Jeff Withey has been a perfect complement with his ability to dominate down low, with averages of 13.1 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4.3 blocks per game. The rest of the starting five is comprised of Travis Releford (12.9 ppg), Elijah Johnson (9.4 ppg, 4.8 apg) and Kevin Young (7.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg).

Despite shooting an impressive .541 from the floor against West Virginia, the Jayhawks needed just about every basket to escape Morgantown with a victory. Withey and Releford led the way with 15 points apiece. McLemore didn't have his best game, shooting just 3-of-7 from the floor, but a 6-of-8 effort from the charity stripe left him with 13 points in the win.