The Cowboys bring a style to Waco very similar to what the Bears run - a lot of strength in the guard position and thus, a lot of reliance on perimeter scoring. Against the very team Baylor lost to last game, Texas A&M, the Cowboys looked dominant pulling away in the second half for a comfortable double digit win. They had 4 guards play 34 minutes or more, including 40 minutes from Obi Muonelo. But the breakout performance came from 6-6 guard/forward Marshall Moses, who had 15 and 13 rebounds - career highs for the sophomore in minutes (23), points, rebounds, and fouls (5).
All that to say, there is no rest for the weary for Baylor. They will need to bounce back both physically and emotionally in a hurry to get ready for Saturday's game. They should be lifted by a large crowd now that school is fully back in session.
Oklahoma State is 12-3 (1-0) and currently on a 7 game winning streak. Their biggest win by far was the previously mentioned A&M win. Their 3 losses came against Gonzaga, Michigan State, and at Washington where they lost by 18 points.
The Cowboys and Bears have no other common opponents at this time other than A&M. Also, the Cowboys are coming off some extra rest early in the Big 12 as they had no mid-week opponent.
Since many of the key players are the same, it's always telling to look back how a team fared in similar conditions last year. On the road in Big 12 play, Oklahoma State was only 2-6, with close victories at A&M and at Missouri. However, they were only blown out in one game (at Kansas State by 21); every other game was decided by less than 10 points. Meanwhile, Baylor was 5-3 on its home court last year - its losses coming to Oklahoma, Texas and A&M - the worst being a 14 point loss to the Aggies.
Oklahoma State is paced in scoring by their dynamic 6-6 sophomore guard and former Baylor recruit James Anderson. To go along with his 17.8 points per game, Anderson is hauling in 5.6 rebound and almost 2 assists. He's shooting over 50% from the floor, including over 45% from 3 point range and 83% from the free throw line. He will be a tough matchup for the Bears - especially in the starting lineup. Once Lacedarius Dunn comes into the ballgame, he will matchup a little better with Anderson.
The Cowboys have 4 other players averaging double figures, and all of them are guards: Obi Muonelo (15.1 pts, 9.7 reb), Terrel Harris (14.5 pts, 5.1 reb), Byron Eaton (13 pts, 3.4 reb, 5.9 ast), and 5-10 freshman Keiton Page (10.3 pts). Each of these guys, besides Page, is averaging close to, or more than 30 minutes a game - so the Bears might as well get ready to go guard on guard. Last game for the Bears, they did a poor job of closing out on some shooters - turning some otherwise ordinary 3 point shooters like Derrick Roland (27% 3 pt shooter) into sharp-shooters. So despite the ability of guys like Byron Eaton to drive to the hole or James Anderson to create his own shot, the Baylor guards will have to stay true to Oklahoma State's other shooters on the floor.
Down low, Oklahoma State was hurt by the departure of big man Ibrahima Thomas. It's too early to tell if Marshall Moses can step in and be a consistent contributor for the Cowboys, so most of the Bears attention will and should still be paid to the perimeter players.
As I mentioned, the Bears and Cowboys play a similar style game. So it won't be surprising to see them close in some of the Big 12 rankings.
Here are some key statistical categories that stand out to me: scoring offense (Ok St 1, Baylor 3), scoring defense (Baylor 9, Ok St 11), field goal percentage (Baylor 1, Ok St 6), free throw percentage (Ok St 1, Baylor 7), and 3 point field goal percentage (Ok St 1, Baylor 3).
Really, these teams are very close in what they are good at - scoring (see above and 1 and 2 in 3 pointers made per game), and very close in what they are not so good at - defense and rebounding (see above and 8 and 10 in FG% defense, 8 and 9 in rebounding, 8 and 11 in rebounding defense). There is a few defensive categories that Baylor does well in - blocked shots (3) and steals (5) - Oklahoma State is 10 and 4 in those two categories.
This information is nothing new to Baylor fans, coaches, or players - who have been talking about this since losing to Purdue last year in the NCAA Tournament. Despite the increased focus on defense and some early success this year, the question has now turned in some fans' minds from whether we are going to turn defense and rebounding around - to do we have the personnel to do so. It is undoubtedly difficult to improve in those areas when you are playing a 4 guard lineup. But Baylor goes with the 4 guard lineup because they have a great deal of talent in the backcourt and it has helped them to big wins in the past - such as the win over Arizona State earlier this year. Don't look for wholesale changes in the lineup this week as the guards will have to get plenty of time to keep up with Oklahoma State. Also, Baylor is still 13-3 and ranked, so the sky is not exactly falling yet.
The team stats again bear out this week when looking at individual numbers in the league. The Bears have 3 of the conferences top 20 scorers, including 2 in the top 10 (Lace and Curtis Jerrells), and the same goes for Oklahoma State with Anderson as the #4 scorer in the league and Muonelo and Harris at #12 and #15, respectively.
Mueonelo really does hit the boards hard, coming in at #3 in the league in rebounds per game, while Kevin Rogers is the lone Baylor Bear on the list at #7 (note: Ok St also has Anderson and Harris in the top 20). Just like last week, Baylor is going to have to get more production from their post position on the boards (either Mamadou Diene or Josh Lomers when they play) or get some more help from Quincy Acy and their guards. One guard who emerged in the second half last game for the Bears was Dunn, who had several strong traffic rebounds when the Bears were trying to close the scoring gap. Each team has an elite assist guy - Jerrells for Baylor at #3 in the league, and Eaton from OSU at #2. Both teams also have one guy constantly creating havoc in the passing lanes, with Henry Dugat as the #2 steal guy in the league, and Harris at #3 for OSU.
No matter how you shake out the stats, the result keeps coming up in the same in this matchup - this is just two really similar teams led by quick, sharp-shooting guards.
Last Time Out
Keeping with the trend of being similar teams, last year the Bears and Cowboys split their contests - each winning on their own home floor. In the first matchup in Waco, Baylor won 79-71 behind 23 points from Henry Dugat on 8-13 shooting. Lace Dunn and Tweety Carter both scored in double figures - as did Aaron Bruce for the Bears. As has been the case this year, most of the time on the court was given to Rogers, Jerrells, Dugat, Dunn, and Tweety (with about 20 minutes each also to Bruce and Mark Shepherd). On the Oklahoma State side, Harris matched Dugat for 23 points on only 11 shots while Eaton and Anderson added 11 each. Marcus Dove also poured in 13 points and 7 boards - the Bears will be happy to see him gone. Oklahoma State fans will tell you Baylor was helped immensely by an injury to Anderson with 12 minutes to go in the game; indeed, the score was tied at the time. Eventually Baylor built a lead up to double digits and then hung on for the win.
Later in the year in Stillwater, not much defense was played in a 93-83 scoring fest. Oklahoma State had 5 guys score 13 points or more, including 25 from Eaton (including 14 made free throws). Baylor was led mainly by 26 points from Dunn, with Tweety Carter, Dugat and Jerrells also chipping in with double digits. Baylor let the game get out of hand early as they were down 20 at the half. But they turned it on in the second half scoring 54 points, but could not get any closer than 8 points.
Summary and Projection
This early in the conference season there's still much to play for, for both squads. Baylor has high expectations for the season, and simply cannot let one loss on the road effect their mentality going into this game. They need to rely on what has got them to this point, and that's guard play. If they can get production from their guards like they are used to, and improve even slightly in the rebounding and defense department, Baylor will have a very good chance to win.
Oklahoma State doesn't have much to lose coming into this game. They were not picked to do as well as Baylor, and are not favored to win this game. However, their guards can all play with a killer instinct once they get hot; they would like nothing better than to beat a ranked team on their own court.
In the end, look for the Bears to come out aggressive on defense, not giving Oklahoma State any freebies from beyond the arc. If Oklahoma State is able to establish anything on the interior - perhaps posting up Anderson, then they could put Baylor in a hole. But Baylor will likely try to go inside to Rogers a few times early to keep Oklahoma State honest - then kick it back out to see if their guards are ready to get win #2 in the Big 12 this season. Baylor fans will be hoping their players come out ready for that win.