WACO, Texas — The power may have gone out in the Ferrell Center tonight, but a light seemed to come on for the Baylor Bears (12-5, 2-3) in their 74-58 romp over the Oklahoma State Cowboys (9-8, 1-4) for their second straight conference win.
The team certainly played freely on offense, getting into the paint and creating open looks for shooters.
Both LJ Cryer and Coach Scott Drew credited some of that to Wednesday’s victory in Morgantown that broke the three-game skid.“Everybody, from my perspective, was uptight after those losses,” Cryer said. “There was a lot of tension. After getting that win, I feel like we loosened up and we’re getting back to having fun again.”
Drew felt similarly, “Coaches always know how important confidence is, and you can’t fake it. When you 0-fer in conference, you’re not playing well, that affects you. When you’re winning and playing well, you just have a different swag.”
Cryer led all scorers with 16 points on 6-9 shooting as four Bears scored in double figures. Flo Thamba was a perfect 6-6 from the free throw line, and the starters were a scorching 9-17 from three.
Keyonte George (8 pts, 8 rebs, 5 asts) had an impactful game, despite the sharp decline in points from the 32 he scored previously.
“Young players,” Drew said afterwards, “they have a great game, normally they come out, and if they’re not getting shots, they’re not scoring, they try to force things..he let the game come to him. He rebounded he defended…every night, you’re not going to score 32, and when defenses key on you, you now are getting other people opportunities to score and be successful, and I thought Keyonte really did a great job of that.”
Tonight’s key was on the defensive end, where Baylor held the Pokes to 38% from the floor and 0.89 points per possession, a fantastic number.
“We communicated better,” Cryer said about the defensive effort. “Defense is just wanting to buckle down and do it, and I felt like everyone was bought in on the defensive end.”
That communication and focus was there from the start of the game.
The Baylor starters dominated the first half. They had both a 13-0 and a 12-2 run, scoring 37 of Baylor’s 39 points. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State was held to 32% from the floor for 23 points thanks to much improved half court defense. When Drew went with a bench heavy lineup, they quickly let OSU back in the game 17-15, essentially throwing away the 13-0 start.
Last season’s 61-54 loss at home to this OSU team was certainly on the team’s mind to begin the game. “Very important,” Cryer said of the early 13-0 run, “because we remember last year, we got off to a bad start at home, and they beat us on our home floor. So we wanted to make sure that didn’t happen again…That first run can be the difference of the game.”
Drew went back to his starters, and Baylor went up 7-2 in 2 minutes of play. A George three extended the run by the starters, then a Cryer three made it 34-19 after a three-second violation on OSU. The quick 12-2 run regained the separation that brought it to 39-23 at half.
After the game, Cryer was cautiously optimistic about the cohesion of the starting unit. “Today, it looked like it came together. Hopefully it looks like that the rest of the season. I don’t want to get to high about it, but today was a good day for us.”
With the bench scoring just 15 points and surrendering the early lead, Drew may have to begin relying more and more heavily on his starting five to push through conference play. Josh Ojianwuna (7 pts, 3 rebs) and Caleb Lohner (6 pts, 6 rebs) both had solid performances tonight but have been up and down this season. Their contributions will be important for this team going forward, especially given the thin depth in the front court.
Totally separate from the game: the power outage led to some amusement on the broadcast, as the commentators had to resort to their cell phones to get audio through.
Even broadcasters need to come ready for anything, apparently.
Baylor will face the third team in the bottom of the conference on the road Tuesday in Lubbock. The Texas Tech Red Raiders started 0-3 in conference play like Baylor, but they have not yet course corrected. The Bears needed this stretch of the schedule to get right, and they have the chance Tuesday to even their record at 3-3 before a tough one in Norman next Saturday.