Top-25 showdown pits Cowboys against Tigers

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Updated: 12/01/2013 10:49 am

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.

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