By Nathan Keil | Sports Editor
Hoping to echo its 2014 team that started 2-8 in Big 12 and ended up advancing to the Sweet Sixteen, Baylor men’s basketball took a step in the right direction, grinding out a 67-56 win over Oklahoma State Tuesday night in Stillwater, Okla.
Senior guard Manu Lecomte led the way for Baylor with a game-high 18 points. Senior forward Nuni Omot added 14 points off the bench and freshman forward Tristan Clark chipped in with 10 before eventually fouling out.
The Bears were far from perfect and were plagued with foul trouble from the get-go. First, it was senior forward Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. who went to the bench with two quick fouls, allowing the Cowboys to race out to a 10-6 lead early on in the first half.
A few minutes later, Clark picked up his second personal foul and was forced to go to the bench for a large portion of the first half.
However, despite the early foul trouble, Baylor remained in striking distance and used an 11-0 run to end the half, highlighted by back-to-back threes Lecomte to put the Bears in front 39-30 at the break. This was the first time Baylor had led at halftime since its 80-60 win over Southern on Dec. 20.
In the second half, it was the Baylor defense that kept the Bears in front, holding Oklahoma State without a field goal for the first five minutes of the half in extending their lead to 14 at 44-30.
Just as they did, in their win over Oklahoma on Jan. 20, the Cowboys refused to go away, sparking an 8-0 run to climb back in the game at 44-38.
Regardless of the foul trouble that continued to mount for Baylor, Oklahoma State was unable to get any closer than five at 57-52 with 5:21 left. The Bears hit all four of their free throws down the stretch and got layups by both Omot and junior guard Jake Lindsey to put the game out of reach.
At times, Baylor was sloppy with the basketball, committing 19 turnovers and were also uncharacteristically bad on the defensive glass, allowing 15 offensive rebounds to the Cowboys.
But when Baylor did take care of the ball, the Bears ran a highly efficient offense, hitting 54 percent of their shots, including six of 14 from long distance. Baylor was also a perfect nine for nine from the charity stripe.
Oklahoma State, came in off an 87-79 upset over Kansas in Lawrence on Saturday, made itself at home on the opposite end of the spectrum—the Cowboys were just 37 percent from the floor, only hit five of 21 three-point attempts and were a dismal 46 percent from the free throw line, missing eight of their 15 attempts.
Baylor (14-10, 4-7) will bring its two-game winning streak into a 1 p.m. Saturday showdown with No. 10 Kansas at the Ferrell Center. The Jayhawks stunned the Bears with a late 9-0 spurt to earn a 70-67 win on Jan. 20 in the teams’ first meeting of the season. The game will air on CBS.