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Baylor Overcomes OSU 66-64

Flagler scored 29 as the exhausted Bears dragged through overtime to split the series against Oklahoma State

NCAA Basketball: Baylor at Oklahoma State Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

Akinjo’s first field goal came in OT. A short jumper at the elbow to give Baylor a 64-62 lead. His second would come with 13 seconds, taken from the opposite elbow. It was money; it gave the Bears the 66-64 lead; and it gave Baylor the improbable comeback win in Stillwater over Oklahoma State.

Adam Flagler tied his career high with 29 points in the 66-64 victory over the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

ESPN noted Flagler is the 4th Baylor player in last 10 years with at least 7 threes in a conference road game.

The Baylor Bears (23-5, 11-4) continue their pursuit of another conference title with 3 remaining games and a massive showdown against Kansas on Saturday.

Baylor’s exhaustion was evident, playing short-handed again just two days after 6 players tallied 30+ minutes. In overtime, Baylor struggled to create any kind of clean look, resorting to Flagler step-backs when Oklahoma State guarded the initial action. In the end, Akinjo found a way to get to his spot and score in the clutch when Likekele denied Flagler the ball.

That was OSU’s plan down the stretch for good reason. With 1:13 in regulation, Flagler drained a contested three coming off a screen to give Baylor a 60-58 lead and a chance to win the game. Isaac Likekele would answer the other end, ultimately sending the game into overtime.

On the final possession of regulation, Oklahoma State nearly won the game on a prayer flip shot from Likekele. The ball arched over the backboard and into the basket, but the shot clock had expired with the ball in Likekele’s hand and half a second on the game clock. Likekele had scored 6 of OSU’s final 8 points in regulation, trading baskets with Flagler and forcing overtime.

The tone of this game was set early. Only one basket was scored in the first 4 minutes of the game, a Mayer and-one following the steal by Akinjo. Baylor held a 6-0 advantage after Flagler made a last-second three to beat the clock, but it could hardly be called a run.

Oklahoma State’s defense was the decisive factor of the game. They had an answer for just about everything Baylor had other than Flagler. Their recovery when Baylor got the ball behind the defense has been phenomenal. Baylor shot a flailing 37% from the floor and got to the line just 8 times. Flagler truly was the only thing going for Baylor. Mayer was the only other Bear in double figures, but was 4-11 and found his points through opportunism.

Once in overtime, Baylor’s zone defense, deployed for the entire second half, gave OSU just enough trouble to give Akinjo the chance at the game winner. The Cowboys, who got 15 from Bryce Thompson and 12 from Likekele. Thompson enjoyed some uncharacteristically sharp outside shooting, but Likekele did what he always does: get to the elbow and flip up the shot. Baylor kept him off his spot for the final two minutes, though, and that was just enough.

It was clear all night that if Flagler faltered, so would the Bears. And boy, Flagler sure did give Baylor a chance in this one. After scoring 15 points in the first half, he continued the three-point barrage, including a bomb from way outside that brought the Bears within 1 nearing the 11-minute mark. At that point he had 21 of Baylor’s 44 points and set Baylor up to retake the lead for the first time since leading 20-19 in the first half. Two minutes later, a sixth Flagler three would cap a 13-2 Baylor run for a 49-45 lead.

Baylor’s early 10-2 lead was more a story of Oklahoma State’s woes than Baylor’s success. OSU started the game 0-10 from the floor, including a missed open dunk, as Baylor took 4 minutes to score their first 6 points. Then Oklahoma State’s Bryce Thompson found his groove, scoring 11 points over the final eleven minutes as OSU went on a grueling 10-0 run over four minutes to take a 24-20 lead. Finally, Flagler ended the run with a cut to the basket and a sweet layup. Flagler’s drought ending layup, though, was answered by an Anderson three, capping a 13-2 run for Oklahoma State and 27-22 Cowboy lead. That three forced Drew to call a timeout to give his players some rest and settle down Gallagher-Iba Arena.

OSU would end the first half making 9 of their last 10 shots on the way to a 36-29 halftime lead.

On the other end, the Bears struggled to create open looks, particularly when Flager, who had 15 first half points in his first action back from another injury stint, was off the floor. Baylor managed to get to the line just once and shot 39% from the floor.

When Baylor lost two games in a row one month ago, there were some questioning the mental makeup of the team. They had blown leads or given up massive runs in both those games, and against OSU the Bears looked lost on offense. The injuries had them out of sorts, and the adjustments were coming slowly.

The injuries have only ramped up since then, and tonight these Bears demonstrated the enormous mental toughness they possess. Sometimes these kinds of wins are credited as “program wins” — times when the team with the winning culture finds a way to get it done against an inferior opponent. That’s not what tonight was. This was a player win, one that coaches can only plead and pray for when circumstances are against them. Flagler’s determination throughout the game was admirable and impressive. Akinjo’s baskets to win the game were remarkable, especially considering they came after he had played nearly 80 minutes of basketball in three days. Tonight, these Bears fought for a win they had no business taking.

These Bears will accept no excuses.