Top-25 showdown pits Cowboys against Tigers

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Updated: December 1, 2013

Orlando, FL (SportsNetwork.com) – The Old Spice Classic went according to the
chalk, as the fifth-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys and the 21st-ranked Memphis
Tigers will meet up in the championship bout on Sunday night at HP Field
House.

These teams met earlier in the season as a non-bracketed game for this event,
and Oklahoma State made easy work of the Tigers at Gallagher-Iba Arena on Nov.
19, 101-80, behind a career-high 39 points from Marcus Smart. The Cowboys now
lead the all-time series, 4-2.

After taking down Purdue in the opening round (97-87), the Cowboys had a much
more difficult task in the semifinals, as Butler overcame a 16-point deficit
to bring the game within one. However, after Khyle Marshall missed two free
throws with nine seconds left, Oklahoma State escaped with a 69-67 win to
remain perfect on the season at 7-0.

Memphis’ one loss to OSU aside, it has otherwise been flawless at 4-1. The
Tigers dismissed Siena in Thursday’s opening round, 87-60, and followed that
up with a 76-69 triumph over LSU on Friday, overcoming a late deficit by
finishing the game on a 16-7 run.

Oklahoma State had a strong shooting day in its semifinal-round contest with
Butler, making 50 percent from the field, but it was only 4-of-15 from 3-point
range and nearly cost itself with a 1-of-5 free-throw shooting effort in the
second half. Despite committing five turnovers, Smart was still outstanding as
usual with 17 points, eight rebounds and two steals. Le’Bryan Nash put up 15
points, while Kamari Murphy tallied 10 points and eight rebounds off the
bench. The 69-point effort was a disappointing one for the Cowboys, who ranked
second in the nation in posting 95.3 points per game on 51.6 percent field
goal shooting and a +28.7 scoring margin. Smart is living up to his billing as
a preseason First Team All-American with 21.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.6
assists and 3.3 steals per game. Markel Brown (17.9 ppg) is an outstanding
second option, as he drains 50 percent of his 3-point tries (16-of-32). Nash
(13.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg), Phil Forte (12.9 ppg) and Brian Williams (10.9 ppg) are
all integral pieces to the puzzle as well.

The Tigers were outshot from the field by LSU the last time out, 56.6 percent
to 45.3 percent, but they made their mark in the takeaway battle by forcing 24
turnovers, while committing just 10 themselves, and they scored 33 points off
of those miscues. Austin Nichols paced the effort with a strong showing in the
frontcourt, putting up 19 points and eight rebounds. Chris Crawford scored 17
points on 3-of-7 from 3-point range, while Joe Jackson registered 16 points,
seven rebounds and four steals. While Memphis may not be having as dominant a
season as OSU, it is still playing excellent basketball on both ends of the
floor with positive margins in scoring (+15.6), rebounding (+3.2) and
turnovers (+6.6). Jackson is the senior leader for the young squad and brings
14.8 points per game to the table. Nichols’ (12.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg) freshman
campaign has gotten off to a strong start, while Michael Dixon Jr. (11.2 ppg),
Nick King (11.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg), Shaq Goodwin (10.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg) and Crawford
(9.0 ppg) are all regular contributors as well.