Riding a season-long winning streak, Oklahoma State hopes to maintain the home-court dominance that has propelled it into a three-way tie atop the Big 12.
The 17th-ranked Cowboys, however, face a difficult test Saturday when they host Oklahoma, which will be short-handed as it tries for its first regular-season sweep of the rivalry in four years.After back-to-back road wins over Texas and Texas Tech by a combined 37 points, Oklahoma State (18-5, 8-3) returns to Stillwater tied with Kansas and Kansas State for first place.The Cowboys have won six straight, highlighted by an 85-80 victory at then-No. 2 Kansas on Feb. 2, for their longest run since a seven-game win streak early in the 2010-11 season. They've been especially tough at home, winning 12 of 13 overall and five straight conference games by an average of 14.0 points.The Sooners (16-7, 7-4), though, may pose a threat to the streak, having averaged 73.5 points on 47.4 percent shooting in consecutive home wins. They also hit 8 of 13 from 3-point range in a 77-68 victory over visiting Oklahoma State on Jan. 12.However, it has been a much different story for Oklahoma on the road. The Sooners have lost three of their last four there, scoring 63.0 points per game while shooting 14 for 53 (26.4 percent) from beyond the arc.While those defeats came in a rough stretch of four losses in six games overall, Oklahoma has bounced back with victories over Kansas and TCU to stay within one game of the Big 12 leaders."We have a great opportunity, because at the beginning of the year, we were ranked seventh in the Big 12," guard Isaiah Cousins told the team's official website. "And now we have a chance at being No. 1."Senior Romero Osby led four Sooners in double figures with 17 points in the first meeting. Osby, the team leader with 13.8 points per game, scored 18 and grabbed 10 rebounds in a 72-65 loss in the previous matchup at Oklahoma State last January.Oklahoma, though, will be without Buddy Hield for this game after he sustained a fractured fifth metatarsal in his right foot against the Horned Frogs on Monday. The freshman guard, averaging 8.6 points, is expected to be out four to six weeks."It is important anytime you have a guy out whether it is injury or foul trouble to have other guys be able to step up and pick up the slack," coach Lon Kruger said.That may be a difficult task in Stillwater because the Cowboys rank second in the Big 12 with 56.2 points per game allowed on their own floor.Oklahoma may also have to find a way to contain Markel Brown, who had a game-high 19 points in the first meeting. The junior guard scored 25 and made 7 of 8 from 3-point range in a 91-67 win at Texas Tech on Wednesday."It was good to see him get going," coach Travis Ford said. "When he's open he has a chance to make them."Cowboys freshman Marcus Smart has stepped up with 18.6 points per game in his last five, while sophomore Le'Bryan Nash could also be a factor after finishing with 21 points and eight rebounds in the last meeting at Stillwater.Oklahoma State shot 12 for 20 from beyond the arc Wednesday and will try to continue that efficiency after making just 6 of 21 from long range last month against the Sooners.The Cowboys have won three straight and nine of 12 at home in the series.