After an uneven start to Big 12 action, Oklahoma State is riding its longest winning streak in conference play in nearly four years. It's been even longer since the program tasted victory while visiting Texas.
The 22nd-ranked Cowboys try to win a fifth straight league contest Saturday and snap an eight-game road skid to the Longhorns, who are very much in danger of missing the NCAA tournament for the first time under coach Rick Barnes.
Oklahoma State began its conference slate with three losses in five games before starting its win streak with an 80-66 victory over West Virginia on Jan. 26. A 78-76 win over Iowa State came next, and the Cowboys jumped back into the rankings Monday after winning 85-80 at then-No. 2 Kansas last Saturday.
That thrilling victory was followed by another Wednesday, as Markel Brown's lay-in with two-tenths of a second left in overtime - which followed a blocked shot at the other end by teammate Michael Cobbins - lifted Oklahoma State (16-5, 6-3) to a 69-67 win over Baylor.
The Cowboys managed to pull out the victory despite shooting 36.1 percent overall and 14.3 from 3-point range, with each number representing their second-worst marks of the season.
Coach Travis Ford hinted that his team may have still been thinking about the Kansas win.
"There were some effects from that game out there, mentally and physically," he said. "We had some dead legs out there. We're glad to get this one, but we all know we have to play better than we did tonight. We played hard, and I'm proud of that, we just didn't make shots."
Oklahoma State has struggled to make shots during its road slide in this series, hitting 38.7 percent while averaging 56.9 points since a 72-67 win over No. 16 Texas on Jan. 24, 2004.
The Longhorns, though, are enduring a tough season after reaching the NCAAs in every season since Barnes took over in 1998-99.
Behind a starting lineup of three freshmen and two sophomores, Texas (10-12, 2-7) suffered another defeat Monday, 60-58 at West Virginia.
The Longhorns went ahead by two with 8:21 left after trailing by as many as 11 early in the second half, but they were held to nine points and two field goals the rest of the game.
"I know that they're a young group of guys, but tonight I thought it was the first time, from an internal mindset, that they were a team," Barnes said. "And I'm really proud of the way our guys stayed together."
Ford isn't looking at the Longhorns' record as the Cowboys attempt to win five Big 12 games in a row for the first time since a six-game run Feb. 14-March 3, 2009.
"In this time of year, you just have to figure out how to win. ... Texas has been in every game they've played, save maybe one or two, until the very end," Ford said. "They've had a chance to win a lot of games. They're a very big, physical and talented team.
"It's always been a tough place to play for us, so we need to get our legs back under us, get our minds right and get ready to go in Austin."
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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