Brody Schmidt/Associated Press
The Oklahoma State Cowboys and Texas Longhorns are expected to be locked in a third close battle of the men’s basketball season in the Big 12 tournament final.
Oklahoma State advanced to Saturday’s title matchup in Kansas City, Missouri by beating the top-seeded Baylor Bears behind a terrific showing from star freshman Cade Cunningham.
Texas did not take the floor on Friday, as it moved on through the Kansas Jayhawks leaving the competition early due to a positive COVID-19 test within the program.
Both the Cowboys and Longhorns come into the championship in great form. The two sides have combined to go 15-3 since February 13.
Oklahoma State is in search of its first Big 12 tournament crown since 2005, while the Longhorns are attempting to become the first team from Texas to capture first place at the event.
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Oklahoma State is the slightly hotter team of the two championship game participants.
Mike Boynton‘s team has a single loss in its last nine games, with the only defeat coming to Baylor, who has been consistently in the top three of the AP Top 25 all season.
During that run, Cunningham has taken over some games with his best performances of the season. He had 25 points in the Big 12 semifinal on Friday and he owns five 20-plus-point outings in that run.
But the potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NBA draft has not been the only scorer challenging opposing defenses recently. Avery Anderson has 68 points in his last three games.
Anderson gained confidence during his 31-point outing against the West Virginia Mountaineers that the Cowboys won without Cunningham.
Anderson and Cunningham combined to shoot 15-for-29 and had 45 points and 13 rebounds in the win over Baylor.
When the Cowboys beat Texas in double overtime on February 6, Anderson and Cunningham totaled 35 points and had Kalib Boone chip in 22 points.
Oklahoma State won that contest through its defense, as it held Texas to 25.3 percent from the field and it gave up five three-pointers on 35 attempts from the Longhorns.
Texas was more effective from the field in its quarterfinal win over the Texas Tech Red Raiders, as it shot 45.5 percent from the field and made 11 three-pointers.
Shaka Smart’s team will have to score more than 67 points to remain close with the Cowboys. It has averaged 73.6 points per game in its last five victories. Oklahoma State averaged 82.6 points per contest in its last five wins.
Texas has four players that average more than 10 points per game in Andrew Jones, Courtney Ramey, Matt Coleman and Greg Brown, but the last 20-point performance from that group came on February 20.
If that quartet is unable to keep pace with Cunningham, Anderson and Co., it could fall behind for stretches of the contest.
One way Texas could dictate the pace is through Jericho Sims and Brown in the paint. Both players average over 6.5 rebounds per game.
If the Longhorns limit Oklahoma State’s second-chance opportunities, they could control the run of play for parts of the contest.
Even if Oklahoma State rushes out to an advantage, do not expect it to be a massive one since the two regular-season games between the programs were decided by a combined 11 points.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.
Statistics obtained from ESPN.com.