Longhorns host Cowboys in Big 12 battle

Austin, TX ( - The Oklahoma State Cowboys attempt to halt their slide and overcome the suspension of their best player on Tuesday night when they visit the Frank Erwin Center for a Big 12 Conference bout with the 19th-ranked Texas Longhorns.

Oklahoma State was considered one of the nation's elite teams just a few weeks back, but has since fallen fast with four straight losses to dip to 16-7 overall and just 4-6 in Big 12 action. The Cowboys' run of futility continued on Saturday night in a 65-61 loss at Texas Tech, which was only made worse when star player Marcus Smart got into a physical altercation with a Red Raider fan and was subsequently suspended for three games.

Texas also suffered a disappointing road loss over the weekend, dropping a 74-57 decision at Kansas State on Saturday afternoon, but it has been much better of late than Oklahoma State, as it had won its previous seven games. The Longhorns are now 18-5 this season, including 7-3 in the league, and they have claimed 12-of-14 contests on their home floor.

The Cowboys have won four straight meeting against the Longhorns, but Texas still leads the all-time series, 45-39. Oklahoma State made easy work of UT in Stillwater on Jan. 8, 87-74.

In a game that consisted of 13 ties and 12 lead changes, Oklahoma State brought the score to 61-61 with 1:43 left on a pair of Le'Bryan Nash free throws, but those would be its final points of the game as it saw Texas Tech end with four straight points. It had an impressive shooting night both from the field (.486) and the free-throw line (.909), but it was hindered by losing the turnover battle, 15-7. Smart was impressive prior to his unfortunate outburst with 22 points on 6-of-12 from the floor and 9-of-10 at the foul line. Phil Forte came off the bench to net 15 points and Nash finished with 12 points.

The Cowboys hope that they can regain their early-season magic before it's too late, as they still have an outstanding +14.1 scoring margin on the season despite their recent woes, outshooting their opponents from the field, 47.7 percent to 39.9 percent. The absence of Smart over the next three games will be tough to overcome, as he's one of the nation's best shooting guards and contributes all over the floor with 17.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 4.3 apg and 2.3 apg. Markel Brown (16.6 ppg) will assume the position of the go-to option without Smart. Nash, who tallies 14.5 ppg and 5.9 rpg, will also be called upon to carry a larger load, as will Forte (12.3 ppg), who's previously acted as the sixth man and boasts fantastic percentages from beyond the arc (.471) and the foul line (.923).

The Longhorns came out flat over the weekend, falling behind Kansas State by 21 at the half and they never made the contest interesting down the stretch en route to the 17-point defeat. They shot a lackluster 32.7 percent from the field and finished with the same amount of field goals as they did turnovers (18). Isaiah Taylor was the only player to finish in double figures with 17 points, as he shot just 5-of-14 from the field, but buried all seven of his free-throw attempts.

Texas boasts a stellar offensive attack this season, scoring 76.0 ppg on 43.5 percent field goal shooting, which had been good enough to support its solid defensive effort (.399, 69.9 ppg). It's also one of the better rebounding teams in the nation, hauling in 7.8 more boards per game than its opponents. Jonathan Holmes leads the team in scoring with 13.1 ppg on 51.4 percent from the field and is a very well-rounded forward, adding 7.4 rpg, 1.3 bpg and 22 3-pointers at a 39.3 percent clip. Taylor brings 12.3 ppg and 3.5 apg to the table, Javan Felix scores 11.8 ppg but on a lowly 35 percent shooting and Cameron Ridley is another imposing presence in the paint with 10.8 ppg, 7.9 rpg and 2.3 bpg.