Ames, IA (SportsNetwork.com) - The Big 12 Conference regular season will comes to a close on Saturday afternoon at Hilton Coliseum, as the 16th-ranked Iowa State Cyclones play host to the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
Oklahoma State appeared to have lost control of its season a few weeks back with an embarrassing seven-game losing streak, but it has turned things around just in time for the postseason with a four-game winning streak. The Cowboys most recently made easy work of Kansas State at home on Monday night, 77-61, to improve to 20-10 and 8-9 in the league, but they have gone just 3-6 on the road.
Iowa State is trending downward of late with back-to-back losses, both on the road, falling at K-State last Saturday (80-73) and at Baylor on Tuesday (74-61) to dip to 22-7 overall and 10-7 in league play. The Cyclones will welcome a trip back home to Ames, as they have gone an outstanding 14-1 at Hilton Coliseum this season.
The Cyclones contributed to the Cowboys' lengthy losing streak last month by claiming a 98-97 triple-overtime victory on Feb. 3 in Stillwater. Oklahoma State still leads the all-time series with Iowa State, 63-55.
The Cowboys faced a seven-point deficit midway through the first half of their latest bout but ended the stanza on a 20-5 run and never relinquished that lead after intermission. They shot 47.7 percent from the field on the night, compared to just 34.5 percent for K-State, and they also had an outstanding 28-of-34 showing at the free-throw line. Phil Forte tied a season high with 23 points on 6-of-11 from 3-point range. Marcus Smart stuffed the stat sheet with 18 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals, while Markel Brown and Le'Bryan Nash added 15 and 13 points, respectively.
Oklahoma State has returned to form in recent weeks as one of the nation's most well-rounded teams, as it shoots 46.9 percent from the field this season for 80.7 ppg while yielding 68.5 ppg on just 40.2 percent shooting. Smart contributes across the board on a consist basis with 17.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 4.7 apg and 2.6 spg, although his percentages from the field (.423) and beyond the arc (.294) have been less than ideal. Brown is an excellent second option with 16.9 ppg, Nash brings 14.4 ppg and 5.7 rpg to the table and Forte (13.2 ppg) has drained 88 3-pointers at a lofty 45.4 percent efficiency.
The Cyclones suffered through their worst offensive performance of the season earlier in the week, as they shot just 40 percent from the field and had only two free-throw attempts all game to suffer the 13-point road defeat at the hands of Baylor. DeAndre Kane was one of the few bright spots in the setback, shooting 5-of-9 from long distance on his way to 20 points, while adding five rebounds and four assists as well. Dustin Hogue netted 12 points and Melvin Ejim grabbed nine rebounds, but was a mere 3-of-14 shooting from the field.
Iowa State's 61-point effort in its latest game was far from the norm this season, as it is the Big 12's highest-scoring team with 82.4 ppg on 46.8 percent field goal shooting and 8.3 3-pointers per outing. It also owns positive margins in terms of rebounding (+0.8) and turnovers (+1.5), all of which help mask a disappointing scoring defense (73.3 ppg). Ejim is the league's top scorer with 18.4 ppg and adds a team-best 8.6 rpg for good measure. Kane is a multi-faceted guard with 16.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 5.8 apg and 1.3 spg, Georges Niang brings 16.0 ppg to the mix and Dustin Hogue joins Ejim in the frontcourt with 10.6 ppg and 8.5 rpg.