By Daniel Hill
The Baylor Bears travel to Oklahoma State tonight to face the No. 22 Oklahoma State Cowboys at 6 p.m. at Gallagher-Iba Arena. This Big 12 conference showdown will be nationally televised on ESPN.
The Bears are currently on a two-game losing streak, which is their longest losing streak of the season.
Baylor and Oklahoma State have already played each other in Waco earlier this season. Baylor won that contest 64-54 in a solid showing. It was arguably Baylor’s most efficient conference game all season. Since defeating the Cowboys, the Bears also were victorious against TCU, but have since lost to Oklahoma and Iowa State.
While the Bears have lost two of their last three games, the Cowboys have won three straight since falling short against Baylor. The Cowboys defeated West Virginia and Iowa State at home. Then, in their most impressive win of the season, Oklahoma State traveled up to Lawrence, Kan. and defeated the No. 2 ranked Kansas Jayhawks 85-80. The win over the Jayhawks even landed Oklahoma State at No. 22 in the latest AP Poll.
Since Oklahoma State last played Baylor, it has adjusted its lineup by going with smaller players.
“They tend to play small recently and actually they’ve been playing [Le’Bryan] Nash a lot at the four,” Baylor head coach Scott Drew said. “They are a team that if their opponents are smaller, they can match it. If their opponents are bigger they can match it so that flexibility I think allows them to have some success against teams in the league that maybe some other teams in the league, including ourselves, haven’t had.”
Oklahoma State has a sizable advantage at home because of their raucous crowd and unique arena.
“They just have a great atmosphere,” junior forward Cory Jefferson said. “They always have a good crowd every time we play them and their stands are right by the court so they bring a lot of energy.”
Drew understands that it is an enormous challenge to win on the road in the tough Big 12 Conference.
“This is a team that statistically, if you analyze things, they shoot a much higher percentage at home, than they do on the road,” Drew said. “I think they feel comfortable in there. They make shots and the crowd gets them going. They tend to get into transition more off that noise. We’ve got to take care of the ball. Keep them out of transition. Try to contest shots as much as we can.”
Oklahoma State’s black and orange colors also can cause some difficulty for visiting teams because the backdrop can make visibility difficult.
“I think their arena might be a little bit different than some,” Drew said. “It tends to be a little steeper. With the orange background and the orange rim, I think it’s just a little bit different type of arena. Whatever it is, they’ve been successful over the years.”
The clash between these two teams tonight is a pivotal Big 12 matchup as Baylor and Oklahoma State are tied at 5-3 in conference. Iowa State sits in third with a 6-3 record. Kansas State and Kansas are atop the conference with a 7-2 and 7-1 record respectively.
Baylor is in need of a confidence boost and winning on the road against the No. 22 team in the nation could go a long way in both psyche and in the standings.