Oklahoma State headed into Big 12 play with a loss last season. A repeat of that this season would be far more devastating.
The sixth-ranked Cowboys will look to avoid the trap of stumbling in their non-conference finale Monday night when they host Robert Morris.
In 2012, the Cowboys lost at home to No. 12 Gonzaga 69-68 on Dec. 31, their last non-conference game of the season. Six days later, they fell in their opener in league play, 73-67 to Kansas State. Though the team turned it around and eventually reached the NCAA tournament, Oklahoma State would much rather head into Big 12 play with a five-game win streak.
The Cowboys (11-1) haven't played since Dec. 21, when they defeated No. 20 Colorado 78-73 in Las Vegas. Senior Markel Brown had 23 points and a career high-tying 11 rebounds, star point guard Marcus Smart added 18 points and Phil Forte contributed 16 off the bench.
Brown, who averaged 11.4 points in his previous five games, was named Big 12 Player of the Week after recording his first double-double of the season.
"I finally got over the hump,' Brown said. 'I've been at seven or eight rebounds earlier this season. (It) was a big rebounding game."
Smart has been the catalyst all season, leading one of the country's highest-scoring teams with 18.0 points per game. The Cowboys rank in the top 10 nationally with 86.4 points per contest.
The sophomore also is the key to Oklahoma State's defense. Smart's 2.8 steals per game is among the best in the nation, and he's helped the Cowboys limit opponents to 37.9 percent shooting.
Oklahoma State held Colorado to 6 for 22 from 3-point range.
"Oklahoma State's zone in the second half got us standing, which is exactly what they want, but we didn't handle that well at times," Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. "I have a lot of respect for Oklahoma State and their players."
Robert Morris (5-8) is led by senior Karvel Anderson and junior Lucky Jones, a pair of high-scoring wing players. Anderson leads the Colonials with 17.5 points per game, and Jones chips in 15.2 to go along with a team-high 5.5 rebounds.
Anderson is coming off his worst game of the season, however, as he shot 4 of 12, including 0 of 6 from 3-point range, and finished with nine points in a 100-94 loss to Oakland on Dec. 22.
Despite those struggles, Anderson is still shooting 45.4 percent (44 for 97) from long range.
Jones scored a career-high 27 points against Oakland and has totaled 45 on 14-of-24 shooting in his last two games after he was held to five in a loss to Duquesne on Dec. 14.
Oklahoma State is 49-1 since November 2007 against unranked, non-conference teams at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
The Cowboys beat Robert Morris 75-67 on Dec. 29, 1984, in the only meeting between these teams.
The Associated Press News Service
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