Cowboys hit trail hoping to lasso Longhorns

With the Big 12 Conference up for grabs, the 22nd-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys will try to keep pace near the top of the standings as they pay a visit to the Texas Longhorns in a Saturday afternoon showdown from the Frank Erwin Center.

At 16-5 overall and 7-2 in conference, Oklahoma State is tied with Iowa State for second place, just a game back of front-runners Kansas and Kansas State. The Cowboys are riding a four-game win streak coming into this contest, and they will try to pick up just their second true road win of the season after dropping four of their first five. The one win however was their biggest, as they handed the second-ranked Jayhawks their first league loss last Saturday at legendary Allen Fieldhouse, 85-80. The Pokes returned to Stillwater to host Baylor on Wednesday, and needed overtime to push past the Bears, 69-67.

Texas is having a season it would rather forget, at least to this point, as the team is currently two games under .500 overall (10-12), and five games off the pace in the Big 12 (2-7). The Longhorns opened conference play with five consecutive setbacks, but have split their last four. The team was most recently in action at West Virginia on Monday, suffering a tough 60-58 loss to fall to 0-6 in true road tests. UT is 9-2 at home this season.

Texas owns a 45-36 advantage in the all-time series with Oklahoma State, but the Cowboys won the most recent meeting in a 90-78 final in Stillwater on Feb. 18, 2012. The Longhorns have won eight straight over the Pokes in Austin, and they are 16-2 versus OSU at home since 1977.

Oklahoma State has played sound basketball at both ends of the court this season, putting up 71.6 ppg while permitting 60.6 ppg. The Cowboys lead the Big 12 in free throw shooting percentage (.451), and they also rank first in turnover margin (+2.8). The team boasts three of the league's top-10 scorers in Markel Brown (15.3 ppg, third), Marcus Smart (14.2 ppg, seventh) and Le'Bryan Nash (13.0 ppg, 10th). The trio does more than just score, combining to grab 14.4 of the team's 36.9 rpg, and 180 of its 261 assists. Phil Forte (11.6 ppg) rounds out the unit's double-digit scorers, and he is one of the Big 12's top 3-point shooters (52-of-142, .366). OSU is allowing its foes to shoot just 38.9 percent from the field, and the team actually performed better than that in the recent win over Baylor, at least at the outset, as the Bears were limited to 33.3 percent efficiency in the first half. They would bounce back to wind up at 41.9 percent for the game, but OSU prevailed thanks to a 14-7 edge in points from the foul line and a turnover ratio that had it giving the ball away just nine times compared to 16 for Baylor. Smart was highly productive in tallying 14 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, while Brown added 13 points and five boards, and Nash chipped in with 10 points. Michael Cobbins nearly had a double-double with his nine points and 13 caroms.

With only one player ranking in the top-16 in the Big 12 in scoring, Texas hasn't had a ton of success at the offensive end of the floor this season. Sheldon McClellan (14.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg) has done his best to help keep the 'Horns relevant, but he needs to launch a ton of shots to reach his average, as he shoots just 37.2 percent from the field overall and 29.1 percent from beyond the arc, the team as a whole connecting on only 41.1 percent of its total shots, which includes a 29.6 percent showing from distance. UT does play decent defense, holding the opposition to 61.9 ppg, and its stance in guarding the basket has resulted in it yielding typical shooting efforts of only .361 overall and .256 from 3-point range -- the first of which ranks the team second in the Big 12, and the latter atop of the conference. Both figures are among the best nationally as well. McClellan led four players in double figures in the tough loss at West Virginia earlier this week, netting 14 points. He needed a near-perfect 9-of-12 effort from the foul line to reach that number though, as his shooting effort from the field resulted in eight misses on 10 opportunities. Javan Felix (11.5 ppg), who is the only other player averaging in excess of 10 ppg this season, finished with 12 points and seven assists for the Longhorns, who hit only 35 percent of their field goal attempts (which included 5-of-20 from downtown) compared to 46.2 percent for the Mountaineers. WVU held a 20-11 edge in scoring from the charity stripe, and a 15-8 advantage in bench points.