Stillwater, OK (SportsNetwork.com) - A pair of powerhouses are set to collide on Tuesday night, as the 11th-ranked Memphis Tigers visit Gallagher-Iba Arena to battle the seventh-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys in a non-bracketed game as part of the Old Spice Classic.
The Tigers coasted to a 95-69 victory over Austin Peay in their season opener as six different players scored in double figures. Memphis managed to convert 53.6 percent of its field-goal attempts despite finishing with a 4-of-13 clip from beyond the arc. It also held a 50-27 edge in the rebounding battle. Coach Josh Pastner faces his toughest challenge since taking over the helm of the program as he will find it much more difficult to claim another league title with the program now playing in the much more talented American Athletic Conference after years of dominating Conference USA.
The Cowboys coasted past Mississippi Valley State, Utah Valley and Arkansas- Pine Bluff in three home bouts en route to a 3-0 start. Coach Travis Ford's squad has overpowered its opposition to post 102.3 points per outing on 53.2 percent shooting from the field. Oklahoma State has shown tremendous balance as six different players are carrying double-digit scoring averages into Tuesday's action with Phil Forte spearheading the charge with a Big 12 leading 21 ppg.
This will be the sixth time in history Memphis and OSU collide on the hardwood. The Cowboys knocked the Tigers out of the 2004 NCAA Tournament in the most recent meeting to notch their second consecutive win over Memphis and take a 3-2 all-time series lead.
Memphis is led on the floor by senior guard Joe Jackson, who tallied 16 points and seven assists versus APSU to begin his final campaign. Jackson was named the C-USA Player of the Year in 2012-13 after contributing team-highs 13.6 points and 4.8 assists per outing to help the team to its 31-5 overall finish. The Tigers also returned Chris Crawford, who was named the C-USA Sixth Man of the Year after averaging 10.4 points, 3.2 assists and 1.5 steals per outing to lead their second unit. Crawford added 11 points and eight boards against the Governors, while Michael Dixon Jr. scored 15 points and freshman forward Nick King netted 13 points in his program debut. Although Geron Johnson posted a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds in the team's first outing, Memphis expects the 6-foot-9, 242-pound Shaq Goodwin to make the biggest impact on the boards.
Forte's contribution off the Cowboys' bench has been tremendously efficient as he has hit on 70.4 percent of his field goal tries, including 14-of-22 from behind the 3-point line. Markel Brown is scoring 15.3 ppg, while Le'Bryan Nash and Marcus Smart are tied for third with 13.7 ppg apiece. Once OSU begins to play tougher foes, Smart is expected to take on a bigger role after entering his sophomore year as one of the front-runners to win the National Player of the Year Award. Freshman Stevie Clark will allow Smart to play off the ball more after primarily playing point guard in 2012-13. Clark is handing out 5.7 apg to lead all Big 12 players.