Woodward, Okla. —
By Jason Elmquist
CNHI News Service
STILLWATER — The Oklahoma State men’s basketball team just can’t do things the easy way. But the Cowboys still have been clutch.
Playing in their third-straight game that has come down to the final possession, OSU came through yet again for a 69-67 overtime victory against Baylor on Wednesday at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
“Glad we won. I thought it was just a gutsy performance by our team,” Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said. “… We’ve got some guys out there that have won a lot of games in high school and have been in these situations. They know what it takes to win. I’ll take the wins, it doesn’t matter how you get them.”
The 24th-ranked Cowboys (16-5, 6-3) had a 14-point advantage in the second half and let it slip away to the Bears, who came roaring back in the final seven minutes of regulation and forced overtime when Pierre Jackson hit a pair of free throws with 6.5 seconds remaining.
“I wouldn’t say that we were terrified, but we were cautious about it. We were thinking that we have to get ourselves together,” OSU point guard Marcus Smart said. “We had a 14-point lead and then they went on that run and started getting hot from everywhere. It started to put us in the sense of that our confidence just went down but we knew we couldn’t be negative about it. We just had to stay positive about it and play defense.”
The Pokes had to battle it out in the overtime, as well, with Jackson hitting a pair of 3-pointers early in the extra five minutes. Fortunately for OSU, which had another cold shooting night against Baylor, got a pair of 3-pointers as well — one from Smart, his only of the game, and another from freshman Phil Forte to tie the game with 1:12 left in overtime.
Neither team was able to finish on the offensive end in the closing minute — something of a theme for the entire game with OSU shooting 36.1 percent from the field and Baylor going 41.9 percent. And in the final seconds, it was Oklahoma State’s defense making the play of the night to clinch the victory.
With Baylor’s A.J. Walton attacking the baseline, redshirt sophomore forward Michael Cobbins got his second block of night and got the ball out to a leaking Markel Brown.
“I thought that we had come too far to give up a layup there at the end and put them up by two with the clock ticking down. I just tried to go up and get it and thank God I got it,” Cobbins said.
The junior guard and most veteran Cowboy scored the game-winning bucket on a layup with 0.2 seconds showing on the clock.
“I wasn’t even thinking about (the time remaining), I took two glances at it and it had five seconds left, so I was just trying to beat the clock as fast as I can,” Brown said.
The bucket gave Brown 13 points on the night thanks to a rough 4-for-17 shooting performance. He also went 0 for 6 from 3-point range, while the Cowboys as a whole made just 3 of 21 shots from long range for 14.3 percent.
The shooting struggles weren’t limited to just Brown. Smart also had an off night following Saturday’s big upset of then No. 1-ranked Kansas in Lawrence, Kan.
OSU’s freshman point guard went 4 for 21 (29 percent) from the field and 1 for 5 from behind the arc. But Smart still finished with a team-high 14 points, as well as team highs in assists (7) and steals (4), while forcing Baylor’s point guard to turn the ball over 11 times.
“I’m used to it,” Ford said. “That’s just what he does. … That’s what makes him good, is he’s such a competitor.”
With OSU struggling to score the first half, shooting 30 percent from the field and 0 for 9 from 3-point range, the Cowboys got a big boost off the bench from freshman forward Kamari Murphy and redshirt sophomore Brian Williams, who was playing in his third game back since a wrist injury before the season. In 31 minutes of work, Murphy scored eight points and had four rebounds — three of which were on the offensive glass. Williams played just 8 minutes but contributed six points — all in the first half.
The Pokes, who had struggled rebounding earlier in the season, were able to pull out the win thanks to the post play. Though Baylor finished with two more rebounds than OSU, the Cowboys held a five-rebound advantage on the offensive glass and held Baylor’s top two offensive rebounders (Isaiah Austin and Rico Gathers) to 1 combined.
“Baylor came in as the No. 1 offensive rebounding team in the league and Austin is the No. 1 offensive rebounder in the league and Gathers was No. 2, so we held the top two offensive rebounders to 1 offensive rebound and between the two they were averaging almost 8 per game,” Ford said. “That was the No. 1 point of emphasis on the board before the game and over the last two days.”
Oklahoma State will take its four-game winning streak to the road for a two-game trip to the state of Texas. OSU will travel to Austin, Texas, to face the University of Texas on Saturday before traveling to Lubbock, Texas, to take on Texas Tech on Wednesday.
Jason Elmquist is the sports editor of the Stillwater NewsPress.