By Daniel Hill
The Baylor Bears lost to the No. 14 Oklahoma State Cowboys on Thursday night 74-72 in the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City’s Sprint Center.
With 25 seconds to play in the second half, the Bears were trailing 72-68. Junior guard Gary Franklin buried a 3-pointer and was fouled on the shot attempt. Franklin calmly sank the free throw to tie the game 72-72 with just 19 seconds remaining.
With 2.9 seconds left, Oklahoma State freshman guard Phil Forte knocked down two free throws to give the Cowboys a 74-72 advantage.
Baylor still had a chance with 2.9 seconds remaining when senior guard Pierre Jackson caught the inbounds pass and raced to the 3-point line. Jackson elevated and hoisted a shot that rattled off the rim as the buzzer sounded.
“Yeah, I definitely thought it went in,” Jackson said. “But coach did a good job of calling the play. We executed well and we were able to get a shot up at the last second. Unfortunately, it didn’t fall.”
Oklahoma State escaped a furious Baylor second half comeback to earn the 74-72 win and the right to play Kansas State on Friday in the next round of the Big 12 Tournament.
The Bears started the first half with ice-cold shooting and dug themselves into an 18-point deficit heading into the locker rooms at half, 42-24.
In the first half, Baylor failed to convert on a single 3-pointer as they were 0-for-13 from beyond the arc. The Bears also shot 8-for-32 on field goals for a first-half shooting percentage of 25.
Trailing by 18 points, Baylor showed resiliency and mental toughness by coming out and battling in the second half to force the game into a close contest.
“You saw a tale of two halves,” Baylor head coach Scott Drew said. “First half, Oklahoma State played great. We didn’t play well. Then second half we couldn’t have been any more proud of how our team responded and played. I thought the upperclassmen did an unbelievable job of leading. To come back from 18 points down versus a team like Oklahoma State showed a lot of heart and a lot of courage and toughness, and I know our staff was extremely proud of how they came back.”
Senior guard Pierre Jackson led all scorers with 31 points, and he also contributed four rebounds and three assists.
“We played Baylor basketball,” Jackson said. “We played as a team. Shots weren’t falling for a couple of us. We just kept getting to the paint. Coach emphasizes paint, and we did a good job of that. We stayed solid on defense. So that’s the way we play.”
Two other Baylor players ended up in the double-digits. Junior forward Cory Jefferson posted 10 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double. Senior guard A.J. Walton stepped up with 13 points and two steals to help the Bears make comeback attempt.
Baylor freshman forward Rico Gathers was one basket shy of a double-double with eight points and 12 rebounds.
“I mean of course you’d be disappointed because of the loss,” Gathers said. “But, I mean, I was so proud of my teammates and how we were able to rally back.”
Oklahoma State sophomore guard Le’Bryan Nash scored 14 points for the Cowboys and had a stretch at the end of the game where he dominated the Bears offensively. Nash scored three consecutive buckets to give Oklahoma State a 67-62 lead with 1:31 remaining.
Oklahoma State freshman guard Marcus Smart was the Cowboys’ leading scorer with 21 points.
The Bears overall record is 18-14 and 9-9 in the Big 12 Conference. The loss significantly decreases the chances that Baylor will be selected to play in the NCAA tournament. It’s more likely that the Bears postseason opportunity will lie with the NIT. If the Bears are selected into the NCAA tournament, they have the potential to do some damage.
Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford thinks the Bears should be in the NCAA Tournament.
“They won a lot of big games, a lot of big games in this league,” coach Ford said. “They’ve beaten Kansas. They’ve beaten us. They’ve beaten Kentucky in Rupp Arena, which is not an easy thing to do. I think they’ve done a lot. If you know basketball and you look at that team, that’s a team that can win a lot of games in the NCAA tournament.”