The Cowboys (12-12, 5-6 Big 12) have a tough one in front of them on Saturday when they travel to face the No. 10 Kansas Jayhawks at 3 p.m. in Allen Fieldhouse. OSU is coming off an impressive 69-67 victory against Iowa State and has been playing its best basketball of the season despite limited bodies. Cezar Guerrero returned from his suspension against the Cyclones but logged just four minutes, expect that number to increase against a deep, talented KU squad. Saturday's game will be OSU senior Keiton Page's 100th start in a Cowboy uniform and he leads the Cowboys in scoring at 14.2 point per game and is the active Big 12 leader in career 3-pointers made.
1) Sophomore guard Markel Brown has been a stat sheet stuffer all season but his numbers have gotten even better lately, especially his scoring. He is averaging 10.3 points this season but has averaged 18.8 the past four games and is the team leader in steals (32) and is second in assists (48) and rebounds (125).
2) OSU has been astoundingly effective from the free-throw line recently, having made 111-of-125 in the past six games for 88.8 percent. The Cowboys lead the Big 12 in free throw shooting during Big 12 play at 81. 3 percent. This was an area of struggle for the Cowboys early in the year but it has turned around in a hurry, highlighted by a 33-for-35 (94.3 percent) against Texas Tech and a 14-for-15 (93.3) outing against Baylor. If OSU can do damage at the line, things could get interesting in Lawrence.
3) KU coach Bill Self is only 7-4 leading the Jayhawks against his alma mater from Stillwater. The bad news is none of those losses have come in Allen Fieldhouse, where KU is unbeaten against the Cowboys since Feb. 8, 1989. Injured junior J.P. Olukemi is the only player on the Cowboy roster who was alive the last time OSU won in Lawrence. That is not to say there haven't been close calls in that time. 4) The Cowboys have used 12 starting lineups in 2011-12 but have gone with the same five (Nash, Page, Brown, Williams and Cobbins) in six of the past seven games. The lone exception was Cezar Guerrero in for Brown as Brown served a minor punishment against Texas A&M for his ejection the previous game against Missouri. Brown went on to lead the team with 19 points against the Aggies.
5) Despite optimism earlier in the week, coach Ford said center Philip Jurick is doubtful for Saturday's contest in Lawrence. The 6-foot-11 center has missed the past four games after suffering a sprained foot prior to the Cowboys' loss at Texas A&M. There is no doubt his presence will be missed against 7-foot center Jeff Withey and All-America forward Thomas Robinson, not to mention KU's plethora of capable slashers in the paint.
1) The 10th-ranked Jayhawks have been up-and-down the past two weeks with a 2-2 record. They suffered road losses at Iowa State (72-64) and No. 4 Missouri (74-71) but those were interspersed with decisive victories over Oklahoma (84-62) and most recently at No. 6 Baylor (68-54).
2) Kansas is 19-5 on the season and tied for first in the Big 12 with Missouri with a 9-2 conference record. The Jayhawks are 12-0 at home this season and are currently on an 18-game winning streak in Allen Fieldhouse. KU is 87-1 in its past 88 games at home.
3) KU leads the Big 12 in field goal percentage defense at 38.3 percent, which ranks 11th nationally. Conversely, the Jayhawks rank 13th nationally in field goal percentage offense at 48.6 percent.
4) As Thomas Robinson goes, so go the Jayhawks. The national player of the year candidate is the only player in the Big 12 averaging a double-double with 17.8 points per game and 12 rebounds. His 17 double-doubles this year ranks second in the NCAA.
5) Center Jeff Withey has really come into his own of late. The 7-foot junior is averaging 8.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and a Big 12-leading 3 blocks per game this season. While impressive, his offense has seen a major rise in conference play. He has scored in double figures in seven of his past eight games, including a career-high 25 against Baylor.
F Le'Bryan Nash (6-7, 230, Fr., 13.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg)
F Michael Cobbins (6-8, 220, Fr., 5.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg)
G Brian Williams (6-5, 205, Fr., 8.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg)
G Keiton Page (5-9, 165, Sr., 14.2 ppg, 2.3 apg)
G Markel Brown (6-3, 190, So., 10.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg)
G Tyshawn Taylor (6-3, 185, Sr., 17.0 ppg, 5.1 apg)
G Travis Releford (6-6, 210, Jr., 9.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg)
G Elijah Johnson (6-4, 195, Jr., 8.8 ppg, 2.7 rpg)
F Thomas Robinson (6-10, 237, Jr., 17.8 ppg, 12.0 rpg)
C Jeff Withey (7-0, 235, Jr., 8.8 ppg, 3.0 bpg)
Oklahoma State has been playing its best basketball of the season but Kansas is coming off its best win of the year against Baylor and has the added benefit of superior size, depth and a formidable homecourt edge against the youngest team in America. I expect OSU to perform better than they did in earlier road contests but Kansas has too much working in its favor to predict an upset. I think this game will be played closer than the final score will indicate: Kansas 75, Oklahoma State 61