Winning in the Big 12 is tough. Doing it with the bulls-eye of a possible #1 ranking is even tougher. For the second game in a row, the Bears took the opponents best punch and survived on their home court, defeating Oklahoma State 61-57. Baylor overcame a 5-point halftime deficit, something that they have done consistently all year. A big second half from Jonathan Motley, who scored 8 of his 13 points in the second half, carried the Bears to a 3-0 start in conference play.
The second ranks Bears are favored to be the top-ranked team in the nation Monday, after defending national champion Villanova lost earlier this week. It would be another first for the Baylor basketball program and Scott Drew, after matching their previous program high of being ranked 2nd.
With the pressure on them, the Bears seemed a step slower at times. Too often, interior passes would be just off, causing turnovers or poor shots. The bigger Bears also struggled on the glass, allowing 9 offensive rebounds in the first half and 10 second chance points. Missing shots, turning it over, and being outrebounded 21-13, Baylor was on the ropes. A combined 20 points from guards Phil Forte and Jeffrey Carroll to lead OSU.
Luckily for them, games aren't over after this first 20 minutes, as once again the Bears overcame a halftime deficit. Behind a renewed focus on attacking off the dribble, the Bears shifted offensive gears, switching away from passing the ball into the paint, to attacking the paint with guards. With continued trips to the free throw lines, the Bears took 18 trips to the free throw line in the second half, compared to just 10 for OSU.
Point guard Manu Lecomte led the Bears with 17 points, with 13 of those in the second half. With Phil Forte or Juwan Evans on him, Lecomte did a great job of putting his head down and attacking.
Baylor would start the second half fast, scoring the first six points to take a 1-point lead. However, the Cowboys would answer as back-to-back 3-pointers from Evans and Forte rebuild the Cowboys 7-point lead. From there, the climb started once again.
Terry Maston, in for Jo Acuil due to foul trouble,scored back to back layups to start the rally with Manu Lecomte banking in a 3-pointer at the top of the key to tie the game at 38.
From there, it was back and forth, as the Cowboys would hit some big shots but never be able to pull away from Baylor by more than 3-points. Baylor would finally get the outright lead back courtesy of two Al Freeman free throws to put them up 50-48 with 6:29 left in the game. It would be a lead that the Bears would not relinquish.
Baylor would do the things that they needed to win. Oklahoma State would cut the lead to 1 with just over 4 minutes to go, but Jake Lindsey would respond with a 3-pointer to push the lead back up to 4. As the Cowboys scrambled to come back, the Bears took care of the defensive glass, holding OSU to one shot. Baylor would outrebound OSU by 3 in the second half, including 5 key offensive rebounds late.
Phil Forte led the Cowboys with 17 points, hitting 5 of 7 shots from 3-point range. Oklahoma State falls to 10-5 on the year, and 0-3 in Big 12 play. It is the first time they have lost their first three conference games since 1995-96 season, the year before the Big 12 began.
As the seconds ticked off the clock signalling another Baylor victory, chants of "Number 1, Number 1" echoed around the Ferrell Center. In a few days, those chants might be reality.
Stats of the Game
- Baylor outscored Oklahoma State 13-9 over the final 6:29 of the game, after it was tied 48-48.
- Eight of Baylor’s final 13 points came from the free-thrown line.
- Baylor outscored OSU 26-14 in points in the paint.
- Baylor outscored OSU 22-11 on the free throw line, attempting 10 more free throws.