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?