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Pokes, 'Cats tangle in Big 12 semifinal round

Semifinal-round action in the 2013 Big 12 Conference Tournament concludes on Friday night, as the third-seeded Oklahoma State Cowboys square off with the second-seeded Kansas State Wildcats at the Sprint Center.

The winner will advance to Saturday's championship game to tangle with either Kansas or Iowa State.

Oklahoma State nearly saw its double-digit advantage in its quarterfinal-round matchup with Baylor disappear down the stretch, but it was able to hold on for the 74-72 win. The Cowboys have now won 12 of their last 14 games to improve to 24-7 on the season as they continue to prove worthy of a high seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

After snapping a six-game win streak with a loss in the regular-season finale, Kansas State got back on track in the quarterfinals of this event with a convincing 66-49 win over Texas on Thursday. The Wildcats improved to 26-6 on the season with that victory.

This matchup marks a rematch of the regular-season finale, a game in which Oklahoma State won on its home floor, 76-70. K-State still leads the all-time series however, 73-49.

The Cowboys started their latest game off red-hot, as they led by as many as 20 in the first half, but Baylor slowly chipped away at its deficit until it finally tied the game at 72-72 with 19 second left. Luckily, Oklahoma State avoided collapse after Phil Forte drew a foul with two seconds remaining and drilled both free throws as it escaped with the win. Pacing five teammates in double figures was Marcus Smart, who scored 21 points while shooting 11-of-14 from the foul line. Le'Bryan Nash and Forte each netted 14 points, while Markel Brown (11 points) and Michael Cobbins (10 points) combined to haul in 15 rebounds. OSU has been stellar on both ends of the floor this season, scoring 72.9 ppg while surrendering just 62.7 ppg to opponents. While Brown leads the team in scoring with 15.5 ppg, Smart has been the biggest difference-maker, stuffing the stat sheet with 15.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 4.3 apg and 2.9 spg. Nash (14.2 ppg) and Forte (10.5 ppg) are also consistent scorers.

Even though it shot just 40.7 percent from the field in its quarterfinals contest, Kansas State had no issue dismissing Texas, as it held the Longhorns to a lowly 34.0 percent from the field and won the rebounding battle, 15-7. Rodney McGruder carried the offensive attack, shooting 10-of-20 from the field (including 4-of-8 from 3-point range) for 24 points to go along with seven rebounds. Angel Rodriguez chipped in 13 points and five assists to the winning effort. On the season, the Wildcats' calling card has been the outstanding play of their defense, as they allow opponents to net just 60.2 ppg, and their offensive production (69.7 ppg) has been strong enough for them to rise to an elite level. McGruder is one of the Big 12's top playmakers, pouring in 15.3 ppg while grabbing a team-best 5.3 rpg. Rodriguez runs an effective point, scoring 11.5 ppg with a great assist (164) to turnover (70) ratio.