Stillwater, OK (Sports Network) - The 23rd-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys will continue their season-long, six-game home stand on Saturday afternoon when they square off against the Missouri State Bears.
Since defeating Malone, 82-49, on Nov. 21, Missouri State has dropped four games in a row to fall to 2-6 on the season, with two of those losses coming in Puerto Vallarta in hard-fought battles against South Carolina (74-67) and SMU (62-61) in the Hoops for Hope Classic. The Bears lost their first true road game on Wednesday night, falling to Tulsa in a 61-42 final.
Oklahoma State has risen to No. 23 in the latest AP poll thanks to a 6-1 start, which was highlighted by a 76-56 victory over NC State in the title game of the 2012 Puerto Rico Tip-Off. The Cowboys suffered their first setback of the year last Saturday at Virginia Tech (81-71), but bounced back nicely with a 61-49 win over South Florida on Wednesday.
The Cowboys have beaten the Bears in all seven previous meetings, including in Springfield last December, 72-67.
Points have been tough to come by for Missouri State this season, as it shoots 37.9 percent from the field for less than 62 ppg, but it was especially dreadful in its latest loss to Tulsa, making just 29.4 percent of its field goal attempts in netting a season-low 42 points. The majority of those struggles came from three-point range, as it was a woeful 1-of-19 from beyond the arc, lowering its season percentage from long range to just .260. One of the few Bears to put together noteworthy a performance in the loss was Drew Wilson, who was a perfect 4-of-4 from the floor for 11 points while adding 11 rebounds. Anthony Downing was shut out on the night, going 0-of-6 from the field for zero points, but despite the goose egg he is still the team's leading scorer on the season with 14.0 ppg, chipping in more than a steal per game at the defensive end as well. Christian Kirk (10.5 ppg, 5.1 rpg) and Marcus Marshall (9.9 ppg) are also important pieces to the MSU scoring attack.
Against a defensive-minded USF squad on Wednesday night, Oklahoma State struggled with its shot, making just 40 percent from the field, but it had an impressive showing from the foul line (12-of-14) and handily outrebounded the Bulls (41-28) in the 12-point victory. Marcus Smart continued with his outstanding freshman campaign, tallying 15 points, six rebounds, five assists, four steals, and two blocks. The standout first-year guard has struggled from the field (.367), but otherwise he has been a great contributor across the stat sheet, as he is the only player in the Big 12 to rank in the top-15 in points (14.3 ppg), rebounding (7.4 rpg), assists (5.7 apg), steals (2.6 spg) and blocks (1.3 bpg). Filling out one of the best guard duos in the nation is Le'Bryan Nash, who puts up 17.1 ppg on nearly 45 percent from the field. Markel Brown (13.9 ppg) is also a potent scorer, and Kamari Murphy and Philip Jurick each grab more than 6.5 rpg.