Coming off its first loss, Oklahoma State has to feel good about its chances of bouncing back in a return home.
However, overlooking what appears to be a motivated South Florida team could prove costly for the No. 23 Cowboys on Wednesday night.
Oklahoma State (5-1) won its first five games, including a 76-56 rout of then-No. 6 North Carolina State, but couldn't keep up Saturday in an 81-71 road loss to undefeated Virginia Tech. Le'Bryan Nash and freshman sensation Marcus Smart each scored 18 points for the Cowboys, who went a season-worst 4 for 23 from 3-point range and were outrebounded 41-31.
"We broke down a lot on the defensive end. We were doing a lot of complaining to the officials instead of going out there and actually playing," said Smart, averaging 14.2 points along with team highs of 7.7 boards and 5.8 assists. "They wanted it more than us."
It was Oklahoma State's 10th loss in its last 11 true road games.
While Nash has been consistent and is averaging 19.0 points, Smart has scored only eight in each of the team's two home games while shooting a combined 4 of 15 from the field. However, the Cowboys won both and have now taken 40 of 41 home matchups with unranked foes. They're 175-4 at home against non-conference opponents over the past 25 years.
Still, they need to be wary of the Bulls (5-2), who are all too familiar with playing top-notch competition in the Big East and will be hoping to make a statement Wednesday as these programs meet for the first time.
"This should be the stiffest challenge we've had all year," coach Stan Heath told the school's official website. "This is a resume builder for you. It can really help you to win on the road in a tough environment against a ranked team that's already knocked off North Carolina State and some very good teams as well.
"They're coming off a tough loss, so I know they're going to play their 'A' game. We have to be ready to play and it could really help us in a big way."
Holding teams to 38.8 percent shooting and 58.7 points per game, defensive-minded South Florida visits Stillwater seeking a fourth consecutive win.
After missing the Bulls' previous game with a calf injury, sophomore Anthony Collins scored a season-high 17 points Friday in a 64-53 win over Georgia.
"I think we're now figuring out who we are and what we can do," Heath said. "Once the guys really understand what we can do and how we can be effective to win games - that's what's going to make us a good team. We're getting closer and I still don't think we're firing on all cylinders."
Collins is tied for second nationally with 8.5 assists per contest after reaching double figures in that category in each of his last three games.
"We put a lot on him. We put the ball in his hands and we expect him to be the playmaker," Heath added. "I think he relishes that position and he's doing a great job with it."
South Florida had dropped 10 straight true road games against ranked teams by an average of 16.2 points before winning its last one, 58-51 over then-No. 19 Louisville on Feb. 29.
The Associated Press News Service
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