There was no reason Baylor should have won at No. 8 Oklahoma State on Saturday afternoon. The Bears were losers of five straight games, had gone 1-6 in Big 12 play and were playing without starting point guard Kenny Chery.
Heck, Baylor even had problems just getting to Stillwater. The team’s flight was re-directed to Oklahoma City because of icy conditions near Oklahoma State’s campus and Baylor’s bus to the game had issues as well, according to Jimmy Dykes.
But, despite all of those issues, the Bears (14-7, 2-6) might have salvaged their season with their 76-70 win over the Cowboys (16-5, 4-4) on Saturday. Baylor’s zone gave the Cowboys some issues and the Bears did a great job of pounding the ball inside and throwing it back out to shooters when the Oklahoma State defense collapsed.
Brady Heslip led the Bears with 20 points on 6-for-13 shooting from the three-point line and he was able to get looks thanks to Baylor’s post players like Cory Jefferson (11 points) and — off-the-bench — Rico Gathers (14 points) getting post buckets and forcing Oklahoma State’s defense to collapse.
Gary Franklin also had a nice game filling in for Chery, playing 33 minutes and scoring 11 points — including two critical three-pointers when Baylor held a tight lead with under three minutes left — while dishing out five assists and getting three steals.
Baylor also did a nice job defending perimeter. The Bears held Oklahoma State to 6-for-21 shooting from beyond the arc on Saturday and did a great job tracking and harassing Cowboy shooters. Phil Forte was held scoreless off-the-bench and Marcus Smart was 0-for-7 from the three-point line on his way to a 3-for-14 day from the field.
Markel Brown (24 points) and LeBryan Nash (19 points) did a nice job getting buckets but that was pretty much the only bright spot shooting the ball for Oklahoma State. The Cowboys just never seemed to find a rhythm on offense and trailed for much of the game.
Baylor is a very talented team full of long and athletic players and there’s a reason why they beat Kentucky earlier in the year. When the Bears play focused and with intensity they can hang with any team in the country and on Saturday they proved that once again.
Consistency will be the big issue for Baylor going forward. Will Scott Drew and his team build on this huge road win or come out flat against another Big 12 opponent they should hang tough with?
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.