News, notes and quotes on No. 15 Kansas' matchup with No. 9 Oklahoma State in Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday at 3 p.m. on CBS while knowing the Phog will be rocking and jumping, especially after OSU's 85-80 victory last season in the Fieldhouse when star guard Marcus Smart celebrated afterwards with a backflip on James Naismith Court as the Cowboys ended KU's 33-game home-court winning streak and claimed their first win in Allen since 1989.
It also snapped KU's 18-game winning streak and started the Jayhawks on a three-game losing skid.
Kansas enters the OSU showdown at 12-4 and 3-0 in Big 12.
SCOUTING Oklahoma STATE
Oklahoma State (15-2, 3-1 Big 12) is tied for second place in the league with K-State and coming off an 82-50 home victory over TCU on Wednesday. The Cowboys' only loss in Big 12 play came at KSU, 74-71, on Jan. 4, with its other setback against Memphis, 73-68, on Dec. 1.
Oklahoma State is led by sophomore guard Smart, one of the top players in the country. He's averaging a Big 12-best 17.9 points per game. Smart also leads the league with 2.6 steals per game and has a team-high 71 assists. Senior guard Markel Brown is next in scoring (16.6 ppg), followed by junior swingman Le'Bryan Nash (13.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg tied for team lead), sophomore guard Phil Forte (12.0 ppg, team-best 46 threes and Big 12-best 47.9 percent from downtown), junior swingman Brian Williams (8.4 ppg), freshman guard Stevie Clark (6.0 ppg) and sophomore forward Kamari Murphy (5.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg is tied for team lead, team-high 23 blocks).
OSU averages 84.8 points and allows 64.6 for a Big 12-leading +20.2 scoring margin. The Cowboys shoot 49 percent from the field, 38.6 percent from beyond the arc, and 70.8 percent at the free throw line, while holding foes to 37.6 percent shooting (top field goal percentage defense in Big 12) and just 28.8 percent from downtown. Oklahoma State also outrebounds opponents 38.0 to 36.2, while leading the league in steals (8.1) and ranking second in turnover margin (+4.2).
Coach Travis Ford is 119-66 in his sixth season at OSU and 309-212 in his 17th season overall.
SELF ON THE COWBOYS
KU coach Bill Self knows Smart and the Cowboys pose a tremendous challenge. KU and OSU were co-preseason favorites to win the 2014 regular-season championship in a vote by the league coaches. Smart, who was projected to be a top-five pick in last June's NBA Draft, bypassed the money and is now making OSU a lethal team.
"I think he's had a good year," Self said. "I think he hasn't hurt himself at all. I heard Jay Bilas say something the other day: ‘When you know that you're really good like that, then staying another year is not going to hurt you if it helps you mature (in order) to handle the things that go along with having an NBA lifestyle,' things like that. It was probably a good decision for him to come back, and I know it's been great for their program. They've been, from start to now, probably the most consistent and best team in our league so far, and of course he's a huge reason why.
"The thing that amazes me about him is that he impacts an entire program from a personality standpoint, and he's been great in that regard."
With Smart's great penetration ability, Self knows his team must have great on-ball defense while making sure prized shooters like Forte and Brown don't get open looks.
"You've got to guard the ball," Self said. "You can't help off of those guys too much at all. We're going to have to do a good job of showing strong help and basically having Marcus think that no matter which way he goes, he's got one and a half guys guarding him. But still, you're not giving up open looks to their shooters.
"Markel, I think he made five (three-pointers) in the first half and maybe six (seven) for the game (last year in Allen Fieldhouse). And then Forte, I think he's already made like 46 on the year. Those are two guys we've got to get to. But Marcus is making shots, too. Marcus is shooting a pretty good percentage (46.3 from the field and 34.5 percent from three) and has made more threes (29, No. 2 on team) this year. So there's a lot of guys you've got to guard on the perimeter."
The Cowboys suffered a setback when starting center Michael Cobbins ruptured his left Achilles against Robert Morris on Dec. 30 and is now out for the year. Cobbins was a huge key for OSU inside defensively and its leading shot blocker at the time with 19.
"I would say they're a little different (without Cobbins)," Self said. "Obviously that's one less big guy they have, and I thought he was a great rim protector and kind of an anchor for them. But Murphy is doing a good job, too. It definitely creates a situation where they have less depth. But I don't know if it's really affected them much unless depth becomes a concern."
The KU-OSU series dates back to 1926 with the ‘Hawks holding a 107-54 all-time lead. Kansas has won five of the last six meetings and seven of the last 10. While OSU beat KU at home last year, the Jayhawks beat the Cowboys 18 days later in Stillwater, 68-67 (double OT) on Feb. 20. Self is 11-8 all time against his alma mater, including 10-5 at KU.
GROWING WITH CONFIDENCE
After a 9-4 nonconference record, going 3-0 to start the Big 12 is just what the doctor ordered for KU.
"I think it gives us confidence because we went on the road and won at a couple of tough places (Oklahoma and Iowa State) and we got a good home win (KSU) sandwiched in between them," Self said.
"I think we needed the confidence because we haven't really had a chance to get a lot of it yet this year. I think we're probably as confident as we've been at any point in time this year. That doesn't guarantee we're going to play good, but I think our guys' minds are in the right spot right now."
Freshman guard Wayne Selden and his teammates are hungry to win a 10th straight Big 12 title. Selden said the loss to San Diego State at Allen Fieldhouse on Jan. 5 definitely woke the team up and inspired the Jayhawks to win another conference championship.
"It really hit us after that loss," Selden said. "To even losing at home, that's not what this place is about. That really hit us hard and really bothered us so we know what we have to do now."