After hitting the game winner against Iowa State on Wednesday, junior guard Manu Lecomte scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half on Saturday to help Baylor overcome a five-point halftime deficit and knock off Oklahoma State, 61-57.
Baylor trailed by as many as seven in the second half, but the Bears kept hanging around, refusing to let the Cowboys put them away.
“We’ve been down by more and come back, so we just needed to stay together and execute what we needed to,” said junior forward Terry Maston. “We knew what we needed to do, so we came out and executed and got the W.”
Unable to connect on its jump shots, Baylor made a living at the free throw line, hitting 22 of its 30 attempts. Baylor also got a huge contribution off the bench from Maston. He chipped in with 11 points and provided a much-needed boost with junior forwards Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. and Jonathan Motley splitting minutes due to foul trouble.
“I think we had a better rhythm in the second half. We were able to get stops and get the ball down quicker,” said head coach Scott Drew. “We figured out how we wanted to attack them. Credit them, in the first half, for doing a great job, making everything hard for us to get into.”
Motley finished with a double double for the Bears, with 13 points and 10 rebounds, while Lual-Acuil Jr. only finished with six points.
After a slow start, Oklahoma State began to find its groove offensively, mostly behind the play of redshirt junior forward Jeffrey Carroll and senior guard Phil Forte III. Their playmaking ability and three point shooting efficiency stretched the Baylor zone and helped neutralize the Bears’ advantage in the post.
As Baylor began to challenge shots and settle in on the offensive end, the Cowboys couldn’t find enough answers to give themselves a chance down the stretch. Forte finished with 17 points and Carroll added 14. The Baylor defense held the Big 12’s leading scorer, sophomore point guard Juwan Evans, to eight points on 2 for 12 shooting.
“I think they just made those winning plays,” Forte said. “I thought for the most part we executed our game plan and played well on the defensive end, but there were a couple of stops and a couple of rebounds that we didn’t get that cost us the game.”
Oklahoma State drops to 10-5 overall and 0-3 in the Big 12. The Cowboys return home to take on Iowa State on Jan. 11.
Baylor improves to 15-0 and 3-0 in the conference. With its two wins this week, Baylor now plays the waiting game to see if will be elevated to the top ranking in the country when the Associated Press comes out with its weekly poll on Sunday. If the Bears achieve the top ranking, it will be the first time in school history that Baylor will sit atop the Men’s basketball world.
“It’s a great feeling. Not a lot of teams get to be No. 1 during the season,” Lecomte said. “But again, our goal is first to win the Big 12, and then go to the Final Four and win it all. Next game, we’re 0-0.”
Regardless of its status in the college basketball world, Baylor will face its stiffest test yet in the conference, as it heads to Morgantown, W.Va., to take on the No. 7 ranked Mountaineers at 6 p.m central time on Tuesday. The game will be aired on ESPN2.