FACTS & STATS: Site: Gallagher-Iba Arena (13,611) -- Stillwater, Oklahoma. Television: ESPN U. Home Record: WVU 6-2, OSU 9-1. Away Record: WVU 1-4, OSU 0-4. Neutral Record: WVU 2-3, OSU 3-0. Conference Record: WVU 2-3, OSU 2-3. Series Record: West Virginia leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: A pair of 2-3 teams in the Big 12 Conference are set to square off at Gallagher-Iba Arena on Saturday afternoon, as the Oklahoma State Cowboys play host to the West Virginia Mountaineers.
WVU has experienced its share of ups and downs this season on its way to am even 9-9 record, as it has put together a pair of three-game win streaks but has also lost back-to-back contests four times. The Mountaineers had been losers of four of their previous five games before returning home on Wednesday night to capture a 71-50 victory over TCU.
Oklahoma State opened up the season by winning 10 of its first 11 games, and it spent the majority of the first two months of the campaign in the Top-25, but the team has suffered four losses in its past six contests and has since fallen from the national ranks. After a 64-54 loss at Baylor on Monday, the Cowboys are still winless in true road games, but they have played very well at Gallagher-Iba Arena this year (9-1).
These newly-formed conference rivals have played just once before, with WVU winning way back in 1959.
The Mountaineers held a 13-point lead at the half over TCU on Wednesday and they never looked back from there en route to their most convincing conference win of the season. WVU shot a modest 43.1 percent from the field on the night, and its showing from the foul line was downright poor (16-of-31), but it held TCU to less than 39 percent shooting and won both the rebounding (42-30) and turnover (17-10) battles. Eron Harris shot 5-of-6 from the floor for 19 points, while Deniz Kilicli and Jabarie Hinds netted 11 and 10, respectively. Scoring has not come easily for the Mountaineers this season, as they put up 67.2 ppg on a Big 12-low .394 field goal percentage. Although they are without a player who scores in double-digits on a nightly basis, seven players pour in at least 7.2 ppg. Juwan Staten leads the way with 9.9 ppg, while Aaric Murray (9.5 ppg) is rock-solid in the frontcourt with 6.5 rpg and 1.7 bpg. WVU hasn't been very effective from 3-point range, as it shoots less than 29 percent from beyond the arc while no player has more than 19 3-pointers.
Oklahoma State took a one-point advantage at intermission at Baylor earlier in the week, but it shot less than 35 percent from the field in the second half and was eventually saddled with the double-digit loss. Despite the setback, Le'Bryan Nash shot 10-of-19 from the floor for a season-high 24 points. Marcus Smart tallied 12 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, while Michael Cobbins added 12 points. Despite the Cowboys' struggles of late, they rank fourth in the Big 12 in scoring offense (70.1 ppg) and third in scoring defense (57.8 ppg). The only other team in the conference to rank in the top five in both categories is mighty Kansas. The Pokes are led by an effective scoring trio of Brown (14.4 ppg), Nash (13.9 ppg) and Smart (13.2 ppg), all of whom rank in the top-10 in the league. In addition to his scoring prowess, Smart is one of the more multi-talented freshmen in the country, adding 5.7 rpg, 4.5 apg, 2.7 spg and nearly a block per contest. Rounding out OSU's balanced scoring attack is Phil Forte (10.8 ppg), who has drained 40-of-108 from 3-point range (.370) in a reserve role.
Although Oklahoma State is clearly not playing as well as it was a few weeks ago, it certainly has enough talent to knock off an inferior conference squad on its home floor.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Oklahoma State 73, West Virginia 66
01/26 10:37:12 ET
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