Top-25 foes collide in Big 12 showdown

12:25 PM, Feb 20, 2013   |    comments
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Stillwater, OK (Sports Network) - Two of the top teams in the Big 12 Conference collide on Wednesday night at Gallagher-Iba Arena, as the 14th- ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys play host to the ninth-ranked Kansas Jayhawks.

The Jayhawks (9-3) and Cowboys (9-3) are both a half game behind Kansas State in the conference standings by virtue of the Wildcats' 71-61 win over West Virginia on Monday. Kansas holds a huge advantage in the all-time series with Oklahoma State, 106-54, but it is the Cowboys seeking the regular-season sweep after knocking off the Jayhawks in Lawrence, 85-80, and ending Kansas' 33-game homecourt winning streak.

Bill Self's Jayhawks lost two straight after that setback, but have righted the ship most recently, blowing out both Kansas State (83-62) and Texas (73-47) in succession.

Travis Ford's Cowboys come into this contest with plenty of momentum, having won each of the last seven games. The victories haven't all come easy though, including a shootout, overtime affair with rival Oklahoma this past weekend, 84-79.

The Jayhawks took advantage of a awful shooting performance by Texas in their romp of the Longhorns this past weekend, as UT delivered on just 21.8 percent from the floor, including an ugly 19.2 percent in the first half, when the visitors connected on just five field goals. The Jayhawks dominated in most areas, including outscoring Texas 38-16 in the paint and earning 20 points off 16 UT turnovers. Travis Releford and Jeff Withey led the way with 15 points each. Withey completed a double-double with 11 rebounds and also added two blocks to become the Big 12's all-time leader in that category (265). Ben McLemore and Elijah Johnson added to the offensive assault with 13 and 12 points, respectively.

On the season, Kansas utilized stifling defensive play to fuel its attack. The Jayhawks are limiting foes to just 60 points per game, while leading the nation in field-goal percentage defense (.356). The team also enjoys a +6.0 rebounding margin and ranks third nationally in blocks (6.9 bpg). McLemore has made an immediate impact in his first season on the floor, as the redshirt freshman is shooting .511 overall, .434 from behind the arc and pacing the team with 16.7 ppg. Withey has been a monster inside. The 7-footer is averaging 13.2 points and 8.4 rebounds per game, while his 4.0 blocks per game ranks third nationally. Releford rounds out the double-digit threats at 12.0 ppg, while Johnson can create offense for himself (9.2 ppg) and others (4.6 apg).

Oklahoma State is a dangerous team with great balance. The Cowboys hold a +11.5 scoring margin, averaging 73.0 ppg, while holding opponents to 61.5 ppg and just under 40 percent shooting (.392). OSU has a number of scoring options at the offensive end, headlined by the dynamic backcourt duo of Markel Brown (15.8 ppg) and Marcus Smart (15.0 ppg). Le'Bryan Nash (13.3 ppg) is the player to watch in the frontcourt, while freshman Phil Forte (11.3 ppg) has been a real asset coming off the bench.

Oklahoma State got off to a slow start at home against Oklahoma last time out, trailing the Sooners by eight points at the half. However, the Cowboys came to life in the second half, shooting 56 percent from the field to force overtime and then carried that over in the extra session to earn the win. Smart led all scorers with 28 points, shooting 7-of-14 from the floor and 11-of-14 from the free-throw line. Nash followed a similar path, racking up 26 points, going 9- of-18 from the floor and 8-of-11 from the charity stripe. Brown delivered 14 points in support, while Forte finished with 10.

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