The No. 17 Baylor Bears overcame a 12 point first half deficit to defeat the Oklahoma State Cowboys 69-65 on Monday. Rico Gathers and Taurean Prince combined to score 33 points to carry the Bears.
“They did and that doesn’t happen if you don’t have upperclassmen,” Baylor head coach Scott Drew said. “Last year, Rico and TP they’ve been in the grind and the war. Their desire to win, their desire to stay poised and not get rattled and do the job that was the difference.”
Oklahoma State (10-10, 2-6 Big 12) opened the game on a 7-3 run, which eventually extended to a 23-11 lead in the middle of the first half. Baylor (16-4, 6-2 Big 12) battled back with an 8-2 run to go into halftime only down five points.
“It was huge,” Prince said. “Coach did a great job of reiterating that we need to get stops and once we got stops we started getting inside with Rico Gathers. And I think when you know that you came back from that situation and you continue to have faith, anything is possible.”
The Bears shot 8-of-21 in the first half and then 15-of-27 in the second half to secure the win. 14 of Gathers’ 16 points came in the second half as well.
“They came out hot and they were ready to go,” Oklahoma State forward Leyton Hammonds said. “Rico [Gathers] had three buckets straight and that changed the game for us. Us getting into foul trouble and Mitchell Solomon getting into foul trouble was hard for us. They were aggressive on defense and on the glass like we were in the first half and we had to go down deep in our bench. Joe Burtongreat gave us some great minutes but like I said it’s hard to be aggressive on defense when you’ve got guys in foul trouble.”
“We just went into the locker room and knew we weren’t playing our best basketball,” Gathers said. “And we knew it was going to be a grind-it-out game in the second half because they’re playing on their home court. We just had to come out strong and that was the first thing we did by getting the ball inside. I think I scored like three buckets back-to-back and we just went to work from there.”
“You can’t give a top-20 team that type of start in the second half,” Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford said. “We just had some stuff go against us that just made it difficult for us. Our guys played hard, we had one more field goal than they did, but they shot more free throws than we did.”
After a slow start to the game, Baylor eventually proved they were the better team through their physicality. The Bears out rebounded the Cowboys 31-26 and made more free throws (23) than Oklahoma State attempted (20). None of this comes at a surprise to Drew,
“No, because we’re a team that plays physical,” Drew said. “When you have guys like Prince and Gathers, those are guys that will get inside. So we’re going to get contact. I think consistently we’ve done a good job getting to the line all year long. If you look, we don’t typically foul as much so I thought that was what we normally do.”
Chris Oliver led the Cowboys with 17 points, followed by 12 points by Hammonds. Michell Solomon scored seven points in the first half but never saw the basket again.
“We’ve just got to be mentally focused for 40 minutes,” Hammonds said. “We’ve had times where we’ve had mental collapses and they’ve resulted in fouls and turnovers and easy buckets for them. We’re just going to have to be more mentally strong for 40 minutes instead of 10 for the first half and the other 30 we act like we don’t know how to play basketball. I just feel like if can get mentally strong for 40 minutes, and it starts with practice and being mentally strong throughout the whole practice instead of having our ups and downs, then I feel like we can be a better team.”