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'Horns and Pokes set for Big 12 melee

With just three games left in the regular season, the 15th-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys attempt to gain ground on the Big 12 Conference leaders, starting on Saturday afternoon in a matchup with the Texas Longhorns at Gallagher-Iba Arena.

It's been far from an ideal season for Texas, as it is just 13-15 overall and in eighth place in the Big 12 at 5-10. Things have been looking up of late for the Longhorns however, as they have won two of their last three, including an overtime bout versus visiting Oklahoma on Wednesday, 92-86.

Oklahoma State (21-6) recently embarked on a two-game road trip and came away with a pair of wins over West Virginia (73-57) and at TCU (64-47). The Cowboys have been one of the hottest teams in the conference -- their only loss in the past 10 games coming in double-overtime against Kansas on Feb. 20 -- and they are a game behind Kansas and Kansas State for first place.

Oklahoma State has won two straight over Texas, mostly recently claiming a 72-59 decision in Austin on Feb. 9, but the 'Horns still leads the all-time series, 45-37.

Texas appeared to be dead in the water, down by 22 to Oklahoma in the second half, but it pulled off the improbable comeback capped off by a buzzer-beating jumper by Myck Kabongo to tie the game at the end of regulation, and it controlled the overtime period to complete its largest comeback victory in the past 15 seasons under head coach Rick Barnes. Kabongo was spectacular, as he not only scored a career-high 31 points, but also tallied eight rebounds, six assists and four steals. Sheldon McClellan made all 13 of his free throws on his way to 18 points off the bench, and Demarcus Holland chipped in 10 points. The main reason for the Longhorns' improved play of late has been the addition of Kabongo to the lineup, as he is averaging 18.6 ppg on nearly 52 percent shooting in five games after missing the first 23 while serving a suspension. McClellan adds 13.8 ppg (albeit on just 37.9 percent field goal shooting), Javan Felix hands out 4.7 apg, and Julien Lewis nets 10.3 ppg, but he is listed as doubtful for this matchup with a concussion. UT's offense is much- improved with the addition of Kabongo, but it still ranks just ninth in the league in scoring (65.1 ppg), which is just a shade greater than what it allows to opponents (65.0 ppg).

Oklahoma State dominated both ends of the court in its most recent 17-point victory over TCU by shooting 55.1 percent from the field while holding the Horned Frogs to a meager 27.3 percent. Le'Bryan Nash continued his hot play of late by connecting on 12-of-16 from the field for a career-high 28 points, and he is averaging 19.5 ppg over the last four contests. No one else scored in double figures in the triumph, although Marcus Smart tallied nine points, five assists and three steals. On the season, the Cowboys are one of the most well- rounded teams in the Big 12, ranking fourth in scoring offense (72.4 ppg) and second in scoring defense (61.1 ppg), while also compiling a league-best turnover margin (+2.8). The catalyst has been 6-foot-4 freshman Smart, who has proven to be one of the best guards in the nation by tallying 14.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg and 4.4 apg, while causing havoc at the defensive end with 2.9 spg and 0.8 bpg. Markel Brown is the team's top scorer with 15.6 ppg, while Nash (13.8 ppg) and Phil Forte (10.6 ppg) are also regular contributors.