By Harper Mayfield | Sports Writer
Coming off of its Big 12 championship-clinching win against No. 6 West Virginia, Baylor basketball continued its winning ways on Thursday, taking down No. 17 Oklahoma State 81-70 at home.
Head coach Scott Drew was especially happy with the way the team was able to turn around quickly after returning from Morgantown.
“Really proud of our guys —player led team,” Drew said. “They came out focused and really did a great job in making sure that we did everything we could to get the win tonight.”
Leading the way for Baylor in the box score was junior guard Jared Butler, who posted 22 points, three rebounds and five assists. Aside from Butler, senior guard MaCio Teague and junior forward Matthew Mayer also had big nights. They each put up 19 points, with Teague adding four boards and five assists and Mayer contributing seven rebounds of his own.
Those versatile contributions are just part of what make Baylor so tough to defend, even for a talented team like Oklahoma State. Butler’s strong performance was key for the Bears, and he knew the team had to come out firing to avoid a post-championship lull.
“I didn’t want to be complacent from winning the Big 12,” Butler said. “It’s so easy to win the Big 12 and come home and say, ‘Alright, we’re not going to play hard. We can lose a game, doesn’t really matter,’ and that was the challenge I wanted to take on from a mood standpoint. We wanted to kill that mood, and no matter what, we’re going to win games.”
The first half was a strong one for the Bears, despite some middling shooting percentages. Baylor shot 47% from the field in the first and 35% from beyond the arc. Butler put forward what was easily the play of the half, a monster dunk on a drive from the wing. Butler isn’t known for his leaping ability, but the Cowboy defense is more than aware of how explosive he can be.
On the defensive end, Baylor was giving star Oklahoma State guard Cade Cunningham fits. Cunningham had just four points on 2-8 shooting and was a -11 in the first half, the worst of any OSU player. The Bears, on the other hand, had no players with negative box scores, a testament to their play as a team.
Aside from Butler, Mayer also had a big first half. He led the team in scoring and rebounding, with 11 points and five boards. As Baylor went to the locker room for halftime, they led 42-31.
The second half saw much better shooting from the Bears, but a more competitive half of basketball from Oklahoma State. Baylor converted on 57% of their field goal attempts and hit half of their three point looks. Butler, showing a new dimension in his game, came up with another big dunk on the break after a Davion Mitchell steal, adding to his strong second half. Butler and Teague each had 12 in the second, helping keep OSU at arm’s length.
A 7-0 run from the Cowboys helped Oklahoma State trim the deficit to four, but a string of buckets from Butler and Teague quelled the OSU run. To close the half, Mark Vital finished a fast break with a showy 360 layup. At the final buzzer, Baylor took home the 81-70 victory. In the second, the Cowboys never got closer than four, but Butler felt that Baylor could’ve kept them further away than that.
“I think sometimes, throughout the 40 minutes, we have time where we’re kind of a little [relaxed],” Butler said. “We just have to expand that playing hard all the time for 40 minutes. It’s a hard thing to do, be locked in and be aggressive, and be just locked in the whole game, but that’s what happens.”
Baylor will be back on the floor on Sunday as No. 18 Texas Tech comes to the Ferrell Center for Baylor’s second matchup with the Red Raiders this season. The game is set for 3 p.m. on ESPN.