Cyclones visit Cowboys in pivotal Big 12 matchup

Stillwater, OK ( - The race for the Big 12 Conference crown is getting tighter by the day, and two teams hoping to stay in the mix get together on Wednesday night when the 14th-ranked Iowa State Cyclones pay a visit to the 22nd-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys at Gallagher-Iba Arena.

Both teams are in the upper half of the Big 12 standings, with Iowa State sitting in second place with an 8-4 mark, and Oklahoma State fifth at 7-6.

The Cyclones took down visiting West Virginia last Saturday, 79-59, to win for the second time in the last three games, and they are hoping to string together multiple triumphs as the season wears down as they haven't won more than two in a row since the calendar turned over to 2015. ISU has lost its last four road games.

The Cowboys recently had a three-game win streak come to an end, as they had their hearts broken in a 70-55 loss at TCU on Valentine's Day. OSU is hoping to get back on track in a big way this evening, as it tries to improve to 12-2 at home. The Pokes have won their last two against ranked rivals, beating Kansas (67-62) and Baylor (74-65).

Oklahoma State fell at Iowa State in the first meeting between the two teams this season, 63-61, and saw its lead in the all-time series drop to 63-57 as a result. The Cyclones have won the last four encounters, but the Cowboys have claimed victory in 18 of the last 19 played in Stillwater dating back to 1986. The last three meetings have been decided by a total of seven points.

Monte' Morris scored 19 points and dished out five assists, and he was joined in double figures by four of his teammates as Iowa State posted a 20-point home win over West Virginia last Saturday. Abdel Nader added 16 points and seven rebounds, while Jameel McKay tallied 12 points and eight boards, Georges Niang 11 points and six rebounds, and Bruce Dejean-Jones 10 points for the Cyclones, who shot a sizzling 56.5 percent from the field, which included six 3-pointers. Conversely, the Mountaineers made good on 9-of-28 long-range launches as part of their 37.9 percent overall shooting effort. A 21-6 edge in points at the foul line certainly aided ISU's cause, as did the fact that WVU committed 19 turnovers.

Iowa State continues to light up the scoreboard with relative ease, as it averages 80 ppg (best in the Big 12; No. 9 nationally) behind typical shooting outputs of .491 overall and .359 beyond the arc. Niang is netting 14.7 ppg to lead six players in double figures, and he grabs 5.4 rpg to help the team post a +2.3 rebounding margin. Morris produces 11.0 ppg, and he is one of the top playmakers in the league as he distributes 5.5 apg. The Cyclones' defensive stance yields 68.8 ppg, with foes knocking down 41.8 percent of their total shots, which includes a 34.4 percent performance out on the perimeter.

Despite 19 points from Le'Bryan Nash and 10 more from Jeff Newberry, Oklahoma State fell at TCU over the weekend. The Cowboys shot 44.9 percent from the field, but missed the mark on 13 of their 16 3-point tries. They also committed 17 turnovers, off which the Horned Frogs scored 13 points. TCU's bench outscored OSU's, 19-5, but it wasn't a perfect showing by the home team as it too struggled from distance, going 0-of-9. An 18-8 edge in points at the charity stripe helped get the Frogs over the hump.

Oklahoma State isn't the offensive juggernaut Iowa State is, but the team still finds a way to generate enough points to keep the opposition at bay most nights. Nash (17.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg) and Phil Forte (16.6 ppg) are the only double-digit scorers for the Pokes right now, although Anthony Hickey is close to joining them as he nets 9.1 ppg to go with his club-best 3.6 apg. Defensively, the Cowboys permit just 60.4 ppg, and the team is second in the Big 12 in steals (8.64 per game) as well as turnover margin (+2.2). OSU's .718 free throw percentage ranks it third, as does its .317 3-point field goal percentage defense.