Thanks to Phil Forte, the Oklahoma State Cowboys nearly spoiled the day for Scott Drew and the Baylor Bears. But the second-ranked Bears escaped with a 61-57 victory over the Cowboys on Saturday in Waco, and Baylor will likely move up to No. 1 for the first time in school history in next week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll.
Forte scored a team-high 17 points (making 5-of-7 from three-point range) and the Cowboys led 48-47 after Jeffrey Carroll’s layup but the Bears rallied in the final eight minutes for the victory.
Oklahoma State is now 10-5 overall and drops to 0-3 in Big 12 play. The Cowboys have now lost their last 14 conference road games (0-2 this season, 0-9 last season, and the last three contests of the 2014-15 season). The last conference road win was in Waco on Feb. 9, 2015 (74-65 win over Baylor).
The Bears improve to 15-0, and after moving up to a school-best No. 2 ranking in the AP poll they are poised to take over the top ranking after the loss by Villanova on Wednesday night to Butler.
"I'm proud of those guys in the locker room. We've talked about a lot of things on this road trip, this was a game we were pretty dialed in with," Cowboys head coach Brad Underwood said. "I thought Phil was off the chart (good), not just because he made shots but because of his defensive rotations."
Forte finished 6-of-11 shooting from the field and Carroll was 5-of-9 and finished with 14 points but the rest of the Cowboys struggled. OSU shot a season-low 34 percent from the field as Jawun Evans (2 of 12) and Leyton Hammonds (3 for 13) were a combined 5-of-25 from the field.
The Cowboys led 30-25 at halftime, but the Bears scored the first six points of the second half to go up 31-30.
OSU then went on its own 8-0 run – including three-pointers from Forte and Jawun Evans – to take its largest lead of the game at 38-31. But Baylor came right back with its own 7-0 run to tie it up again.
The Bears used Johnathan Motley’s two free throws to stretch their lead to 58-52 with 3:26 remaining. The Cowboys pulled within 58-56 when Cameron McGriff made two of three free throws after being fouled on a three-pointer with 53 seconds remaining. But that’s as close as the Cowboys would get in the final minute.
"It was a great first half and Jawun (Evans) was not even a factor, he only played four or five minutes. Brandon Averette did a great job leading us through that stretch," Underwood said. "On a night we didn't shoot the ball very well. You shoot 34 percent and give yourself a chance to win. You know what, those nights happen.
"I thought for the most part we were the aggressor, and I'll take that. We'll learn from some mistakes. Late in the game you can't miss free throws on the road, and you can't turn the ball over. We needed a big defensive stop and rebound, and they got it. But that's why they won the game. That's why they're going to be the number one team in the country.
"I'm proud of the guys in the locker room. If we play like that we'll win a lot of games."
The Cowboys will attempt to get back in the win column Wednesday night when they face Iowa State at Gallagher-Iba Arena. Tip is scheduled for 8 p.m.