Missouri St.-Oklahoma St. Preview
Oklahoma State proved it can win on the defensive end, even without a big scoring night from Le'Bryan Nash.
The 23rd-ranked Cowboys will try to put a new winning streak together starting Saturday, when they continue a six-game homestand by trying to hand Missouri State a fifth straight loss.
After giving up a season-high point total in an 81-71 loss at Virginia Tech on Dec. 1, Oklahoma State (6-1) rediscovered its defensive prowess Wednesday night in a 61-49 win over South Florida.
The Cowboys, who held the Bulls to a season-worst 34.0 percent from the field, have allowed an average of 56.3 points while limiting opponents to 34.4 percent shooting in their six wins.
Oklahoma State has a chance to continue that success against Missouri State (2-6), one of the 20 worst-shooting teams in the country at 37.9 percent.
"We just want to go out there and focus on our defense, no matter if our shots are falling for us or not," said Cowboys guard Markel Brown, who scored 13 points Wednesday. "Defense will win games for us. That's a big focus for this team."
Nash, the Cowboys' scoring leader at 17.1 per game, will focus on getting back on track after running into some foul trouble and finishing with only six points on Wednesday.
The sophomore forward, who had scored in double digits in 15 consecutive games, attempted just four shots in 22 minutes.
"It was just one of those nights," coach Travis Ford said.
Oklahoma State, ranked in the top 25 for the first time since 2007, has also received key contributions from other sources recently.
Guard Marcus Smart had a game-high 15 against the Bulls, giving him a 15.3-point average over his last six games.
Center Philip Jurick had seven points and a career-high 14 rebounds to help the Cowboys hold a 41-28 advantage on the glass, including 14 offensive boards that turned into 19 second-chance points.
Oklahoma State has grabbed at least 40 rebounds in four games this season and has outrebounded its opponents by 6.8 per contest in its last five wins.
Missouri State is still looking for its first victory against a Division I opponent after a 61-42 loss at Tulsa on Wednesday.
While their only wins have come versus NAIA school Philander Smith College and Division II Malone University, the Bears did push South Carolina into overtime on Nov. 24 and lost by one to SMU a day later.
The Bears enter the contest with a solid plus-4.2 turnover margin, forcing 16.0 per game while committing just 11.3.
Oklahoma State, though, is averaging 11.7 per game after committing only nine versus South Florida.
An ability to force mistakes won't matter if Missouri State can't figure out a way to knock down some shots, though. The Bears have shot 29.9 percent from the field in their last two games and missed 42 of their 45 3-point attempts.
Anthony Downing, the team's scoring leader at 14.0 per game, will try to bounce back after his 13-game streak of putting up double figures was snapped in a scoreless effort on Wednesday.
Sophomore forward Christian Kirk is the only other player averaging double figures at 10.5 per game.
Oklahoma State has won all seven meetings, including a come-from-behind 72-67 victory in Springfield last season behind Nash's 19 points.