By Cody Soto
No. 20 Baylor men’s basketball had its third-straight Associated Press Top 25 opponent come to Waco on Saturday. The Bears put up a fight in front of a raucous crowd to take a crucial 69-58 win over then-No. 19 Oklahoma.
The Bears (15-4, 3-3) avenged a 73-63 loss against the Sooners in Norman, Okla., and now have wins over two ranked opponents in conference play, the other being against then-No. 9 Iowa State.
“I am really proud of how the guys executed down the stretch,” head coach Scott Drew said. “We were 8-for-8 from the free throw line, shot 50 percent. [Oklahoma] is a great team and we had to work hard in order to get a win like this.”
Junior guard Lester Medford had a career-high 17 points and dished five assists in the win. Medford was 6-for-10 from the field and provided several big plays for the Bears down the stretch.
One problem Baylor kept having on Saturday was difficulty keeping possession of the ball. The Bears had 15 turnovers in the matchup, including four from freshman forward Johnathan Motley.
The Bears also could not get Motley and junior forward Rico Gathers involved in the middle, forcing Baylor to pass the ball back out to one of its guards and restart offensive possessions.
The Bears did not give up, though. With 8:03 left in the game, Oklahoma’s Jordan Woodard hit a three-point shot to give the Sooners a three-point lead with the momentum heading down the final stretch.
A three-pointer by senior Kenny Chery and a layup by Gathers pushed the Bears in front 51-49 with 5:02 remaining in the second half. A 23-9 run helped boost Baylor to the 11-point victory with the hard-earned transition points and the crowd’s energy to walk away with a win.
The win was the fourth straight conference game that Baylor had to perform well in the second half to come away with the victory. After dropping a one-point loss to No. 9 Kansas and a two-point loss to Kansas State, the Bears were able to make a statement and finish strong.
In the midst of an early 16-1 lead over Iowa State, the Bears were able to hold off the Cyclones on Jan. 14 at home for the 74-73 win. The finish was the pinnacle of the game.
“We were ready when [Iowa State] made that run, and we had to keep our composure and stay poised,” Chery said. “They really came back and even led by one, but we had to stay focused and keep our faith in God through it all.”
The Bears will play Oklahoma State today at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Okla., and look to bring home their second conference road win. Baylor took the 2-0 sweep over the Cowboys in the 2013-14 season after a 76-70 road win on Feb. 1, 2014.
However, both of these teams are anything but the same from last season. The Oklahoma State Cowboys (13-6, 3-4) have the rise in leadership from guard Phil Forte III, who is averaging 17.5 points per contest and boasts a 45.8 shooting percentage in Oklahoma State’s previous 19 matchups.
Le’Bryan Nash is right behind Forte with 17.3 points per game and is the current Big 12 leader in 20-point games with 20. The Cowboys lost their two leading scorers, Marcus Smart and Markel Brown, to the NBA Draft, but the Cowboys have been known to play well in spite of losing talent.
Oklahoma State is 9-1 at home, with its only loss being against Maryland on Dec. 21. Oklahoma State dropped a 63-53 decision to Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan., in its most recent Big 12 matchup. Forte had 22 points and shot 52.6 percent from the field in the loss.
The Bears and Cowboys tip off at 8 p.m. on ESPNEWS and WatchESPN today in Stillwater, Okla.