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January 25, 2014

Know the Foe Round 2: WVU

After losing to Kansas in Lawrence last weekend the Cowboys will look to bounce back Saturday afternoon by sweeping the West Virginia Mountaineers in conference play. Since the 1st matchup between OSU and West Virginia, the Cowboys picked up a win at home against TCU, but fell short to Kansas after almost completing a great comeback in Lawrence. The Cowboys are now 15-3 overall and are only a half game back from 2nd in the Big XII with a 3-2 record. Looking ahead at their schedule the Cowboys have the potential to string a few wins together and that will start with a win at home against the Mountaineers. West Virginia seemed to have put a lot of energy into their 1st matchup with the Cowboys because the Mountaineers have struggled since then, losing to Texas at home and Kansas State on the road. The Mountaineers were able to end their 3-game losing streak on Wednesday with a win at home against Texas Tech, sweeping the Red Raiders in Big XII play. Before their 1st game against the Cowboys West Virginia was 10-5 on the season, but since then have been 1-3, making the Mountaineers 11-8 coming into Saturday's matchup.

On paper this won't be one of the marquee matchups in Big XII this season, but both teams have a lot to play for on Saturday. For the Cowboys, they have a chance to sweep a Big XII team which will be uncommon with how tough the Big XII conference is this season. The Cowboys are only 2 games back from the top of the Big XII and with the way Kansas is currently playing, they cannot afford to lose any more ground to the Jayhawks. For the Mountaineers, they came close to upsetting OSU in their first matchup. A win on the road in Stillwater would be huge for their team and continue them on the right track and get them into the mix with some of the Big XII's best.

The 1st Matchup:
The Mountaineers took it to the Cowboys early in the 1st half with strong play by their backcourt. Although West Virginia shot well in the 1st half the Cowboys were able to hang with them and only trailed by 2 at the half. OSU would get the 1st lead of the game midway through the 2nd, and from there the game would be a back and forth all the way down to the final seconds. In the end it was Markel Brown who would hit a game winning 3-pointer with 11.2 seconds left in the game and a great last stand from the Cowboy defense that would help the Cowboys survive in Morgantown with a 73-72 win.

What to Watch For (Part 2):

The GIA Effect:
The Cowboys were able to pick a Big XII road win in Morgantown, but continue to have road trouble woes. West Virginia gave the Cowboys everything they had and it was almost enough pull of the upset over the Cowboys, but fortunately for OSU they were able escape with a victory. It was a good road win for the Cowboys, but so far it is their only road win in conference play. While the Cowboys haven't been the sharpest team on the road in recent years, their play inside Gallagher-Iba Arena tells a different story. You can make the argument that just about every team an almost any sport isn't as good on the road as they are on home, but it is almost a night and day difference between the Cowboys on the road and the Cowboys playing in GIA. Oklahoma State is the only team left in the conference that is undefeated at home and it could very well stay that way with how they have played this season inside GIA. If this performance trend continues this Saturday then we will more than likely not see as close of a game as we did in the 1st matchup.

Nash and Murphy:

I predicted in the last matchup Le'Bryan Nash would have a good game against West Virginia and there's no reason why that won't happen again. West Virginia is similar to Oklahoma State when it comes to the teams' strengths and weaknesses. Like OSU the Mountaineers are strong in their backcourt and are weaker in the front court, but unlike the Mountaineers the Cowboys have a more talented front court in Nash and Kamari Murphy. Nash can very well have another great game against the Mountaineers and Murphy could be poised to join him as well. We saw Murphy be more aggressive on the offensive side of the ball in Cowboys' last game against Kansas. He took more shots than he has all season and also had a season high 12 points against the Jayhawks. Murphy came out aggressive offensively against one of the best front courts in the Big XII and played well. With a mismatch like the one on Saturday, he could be more efficient on offense if he is aggressive again.

Prediction:
West Virginia gave OSU everything that had in their 1st matchup and they fell short. I think that was their only chance to beat the Cowboys this season. OSU is a great team when they're playing at home and the only teams I can see beating the Cowboys in GIA are Kansas and maybe Iowa State. Both teams' back courts will play well, but Nash and Murphy will be the factor that decides this one. Cowboys get the sweep over West Virginia for the 2nd year in a row. Oklahoma State 79 - West Virginia 66


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