By Cody Soto
The No. 16-ranked Baylor men’s basketball team had seen better days before Monday. In fact, the Bears were riding a three-game win streak with victories that consisted of two top 25 wins. All wins were by double digits, and Baylor shot the ball well in all parts of the court.
However, the hot shooting saw a bitter winter, and the team committed 16 turnovers as Baylor dropped a 74-65 decision to No. 21 Oklahoma State at the Ferrell Center on Monday night. It was the third game the Bears played in five days.
“We wanted to finish it out on a positive note, but in the second half I think we ran out of gas,” head coach Scott Drew said. “They made some big shots; you have to credit them for all the second chance points they got. We can’t beat a good team in a halfcourt game with 16 turnovers.”
The loss showed some flaws on both sides of the court. When the Bears seemed to get a fast break in the Top-25 matchup, the flow of the game was interrupted by offensive fouls and costly turnovers that kept making every possession more important for both teams.
Junior forward Taurean Prince led Baylor (18-6, 6-5 Big 12) with 20 points, 14 of which were in the first half. The only other double-digit scorer was junior forward Rico Gathers, who had his 13th double-double of the season with 16 points and 16 rebounds. Seniors Royce O’Neale and Kenny Chery each added nine points, each hitting three field goals in the loss.
“Losing home games really stinks,” Drew said. “After three big wins, we got up and kept thinking that they would go away, but they deserve a lot of credit for staying within their game plan.”
Four players scored in double-digits for the Cowboys (17-7, 7-5): Le’Bryan Nash had 22 points, Phil Forte III added 18 points, Jeff Newberry had 16, and Anthony Hickey contributed 12 points. Oklahoma State took advantage of Baylor’s 16 turnovers and added 20 points off turnovers, giving the Cowboys their third-straight win over a ranked opponent.
Freshman forward Johnathan Motley scored the first three points after tipoff for the Bears, but Hickey hit a three-pointer for the Cowboys to put them on the board to even it out. The Cowboys weren’t hitting shots early, but the Bears weren’t taking advantage of it.
“One of our keys for every game is limiting our turnovers to nine and under, and we didn’t do that tonight,” Gathers said. “Really and truly, their players hit some big shots. It’s really disappointing when you come out flat.”
The score kept evening out throughout the first half, but the Bears pushed open the gates with an 11-2 lead to go up 33-25 with 2:27 left before halftime. However, the Cowboys answered back with a 7-0 run to end the half, giving Baylor a tight 33-32 lead at the break. The end of the first half didn’t go as well as the team had been playing in previous games, Drew said.
“That really hurt,” Drew said. “We’ve been finishing halves really well. We should have come into the locker room with the momentum, and not give it back.”
All things seemed well with Baylor coming out of the locker room as O’Neale scored four straight points to start the second half. However, Forte nailed a three pointer on the other end that started a plethora of three-point shots for Oklahoma State. With Baylor struggling on the other end, Forte, Hickey and Newberry each hit a three pointer to push the Cowboys out to a 44-42 lead.
Once again, turnovers crippled the Bears on offense and the team went several possessions without a shot that allowed Oklahoma State to continue their dominance in the second half. The Bears showed a little bit of light towards the final minutes when Gathers slam dunked the ball off a turnover to pull Baylor within three, 58-55.
“It was there for the taking. That’s when you’re supposed to crackdown,” Gathers said. “When you are that close in the game, you’ve got to be able to seal the deal and regain the lead. We didn’t do that, but stuff happens. That’s Big 12 basketball for you.”
Shots would continue to not fall on Baylor’s end, and Oklahoma State ran away with the nine-point win in Waco. The Cowboys got the season sweep over the Bears this season after taking an 11-point win in Stillwater, Okla. They had not swept the Bears since 2006.
“We know what’s ahead of us,” Drew said. “We either keep getting better or we get worse. Playing at Kansas isn’t easy. Every game, if you’re not ready and you’re not at your best, then you’re going to lose. We’ll get some rest and get ready for the rest of the grind.”
The Bears look to rebound quickly at noon on Saturday as they travel to Lawrence, Kan., to face the Jayhawks in another Top-25 matchup on CBS.