Oklahoma State has struggled in its last three games as it's run into some tough Big 12 competition. Baylor has fared even more poorly against its conference opponents.
A return home to face the sinking Bears should give the No. 8 Cowboys a good chance to start putting a couple of disheartening losses behind them, though they haven't had the easiest time against the Bears in the last two meetings.The Cowboys (16-4, 4-3) have dropped two of their last three, with the losses coming at then-No. 15 Kansas on Jan. 18 and at No. 23 Oklahoma on Monday. Oklahoma State shot 40.0 percent from the field and allowed the Sooners to make 46.3 percent in an 88-76 defeat that may have essentially ended the Cowboys' conference title hopes.Oklahoma State is in fifth place in the Big 12, three games behind the first-place Jayhawks."We're not playing our style of basketball," guard Markel Brown said. "We've been in a lot of tight games, and it shouldn't be like that for us. We haven't been moving the ball well on offense and our defense has been down also."Oklahoma had 42 free-throw attempts, making 30, while Oklahoma State was 15 of 22 from the line."We need to quit worrying about the refs and all that and just play," guard Phil Forte III said. "Move onto the next play. That's the most important thing."Cowboys leading scorer Marcus Smart was in foul trouble for most of the game, scoring 22 points but going 6 of 18 from the field and 3 for 11 from 3-point range while missing six of 13 free throws. Le'Bryan Nash fouled out after scoring eight points, one game after a season-best 29-point performance in a win over West Virginia.The Cowboys' problems pale in comparison to those of Baylor (13-7, 1-6), which has dropped five in a row and six of seven, all in conference play. Ranked as high as seventh earlier in January, the Bears have appeared outclassed by their Big 12 opponents, scoring 72 or fewer points in every league matchup after averaging 78.8 during their non-conference schedule."The frustration is definitely there," forward Rico Gathers said. "Like coaches say, back to the lab, back to the drawing board. We have to come out against Oklahoma State on Saturday and try to get that win. That's all you can do."This game will match the two top long-range shooters in the Big 12. Forte leads the conference in 3-point percentage at 49.6 while Baylor's Brady Heslip ranks second at 47.5.The Cowboys took two of three meetings last season, but those victories came by two points apiece. The most recent one was a 74-72 win March 15 in the conference tournament after Oklahoma State blew a 20-point first-half lead.The Cowboys took the latest meeting in Stillwater 69-67 in overtime Feb. 6, winning despite a 4-for-21 shooting performance from Smart and a 4-for-17 effort from Brown.
Oklahoma State leads the Big 12 in both offensive efficiency (116.7) and defensive efficiency (93.3). The Cowboys are one of four teams (Louisiana Tech, Wichita State, and Mercer) to lead their conference in both categories.
Oklahoma State outscores its opponent by 9.5 transition points per game, the best differential in the Big 12 and third best in the nation behind BYU (+11.4) and Michigan State (+10.6). The Cowboys' 20.6 transition points per game lead the Big 12 and are tied for 10th most in the nation.
Marcus Smart has struggled to score in his last 4 games, shooting less than 25 percent from the field and 3-for-28 on 3-pointers in those games. 49 percent of Smart's points in his last 4 games have come from free throws. Oklahoma State has lost 3 of its last 4 games.