WACO, Texas — A ticked off Baylor team couldn’t overcome the back-to-a-wall fight the Cowboys brought Saturday.
Oklahoma State beat No. 1 Baylor 61-54 in the Ferrell Center. Here are five thoughts on the game.
1. Bryce Thompson Proves Five-Star Pedigree
Bryce Thompson’s college career didn’t get off to the start nearly everyone had expected, but he showed Saturday afternoon in Waco that all of those accolades he earned in high school were warranted.
Against the defending national champs and No. 1 team in the country, Thompson dropped a career-high 19 points, but it wasn’t just that he had 19 points. He had answers for a surging Baylor.
Toward the end of the first half, Baylor went on a 6-0 run. Thompson answered with a 3 and a breakaway dunk.
Midway through the second half, Baylor’s LJ Cryer hit a 3 to finally pull the Bears within single digits. Thompson answered with his smooth mid-range jumper.
Not long after, the Bears went on a 5-0 run that cut OSU’s lead to 51-45. Thompson again hit a mid-range jumper.
Then with the Ferrell Center at its loudest with the Bears down a point with 1:21 to play, Thompson not only scored the final six points of the game, he secured a game-icing steal. A scorer, Thompson’s defense had been questioned at the collegiate level.
“All I can attest to is just the work, man,” Thompson said. “Just putting lots of hours in. It’s just kind of like another rep. I’ve been blessed with gifts and talents, and I’m just able to go out there and exercise them to the best of my ability.”
The five-star recruit turned sophomore transfer finished with the 19 points on 7-for-15 shooting, two rebounds, one assist and two steals. With a need for good free-throw shooting late, Mike Boynton got the ball in Thompson’s hands, and Thompson went 4-for-4.
“He’s a big-time player,” Boynton said. “There’s a reason we recruited him as hard as we did out of high school, and that once he was available again in the spring, there was no thought in our minds to try to get him back home. He showed up today in a big way and really was a key cog into us keeping a little distance for a while. Let alone the defensive play he made there late. He’s made so much growth on the defensive end of the court. It makes you proud that he’s a kid, as talented as he is, who will continue to get better because he wants to listen and be coached.”
2. It Finally Came Together
An identity on offense had been an issue for the Cowboys throughout this season, but somehow at the No. 1 team in the country’s place, it was there.
The first half saw the Cowboys play stifling defense which led to transition offense. The Cowboys led by as many as 18 in the first half, and it came because Baylor shot 26% from the field in the half and went into the locker room just 2-for-13 from deep.
OSU, meanwhile, had 11 fast-break points in the first half, quickly pushing Baylor misses up the floor. The Cowboys had nine first-half assists. Layups were dropping. Dunks were getting driven through the rim. OSU was a confident basketball team. That was evident because OSU shot 38% from 3 in the first half after shooting a woeful 29% on the year entering Saturday.
“We played with a level of determination today that I haven’t seen in a while,” Boynton said. “If we can do that more consistently, because everybody who played scored, and when we focus on trying to help each other, we’re a really good team.”
Boynton’s team of long, athletic basketball players finally looked comfortable, and it’s so strange that scenario came after the Pokes were reeling on the third game of a wild road trip.
3. Still Fighting After Ridiculous Road Trip
This should’ve been the day the 2021-22 Cowboys were put to bed.
After two poor road performances earlier this week, after traveling thousands of miles from Stillwater to Morgantown to Lubbock to Waco, this team had no right to go into the defending national champ’s building and win. But the Cowboys did.
“You learn that you’re capable,” Thompson said. “You’re capable of beating any team in this league. It’s the best league in the country. Day in, day out, you’re playing a great opponent with a chance to win. If we know anything, we know we have what it takes now.”
The team with no postseason basketball to play for proved it still belonged in college basketball’s best conference on Saturday, and it was pretty cool to see.
“What I’ve learned [on the road trip] is we are who I believed at the beginning of the season we could be,” Boynton said. “We’re that team. The record may not reflect that, and I know people may say, ‘He’s just saying that because they won.’ I haven’t seen our team flinch.
“I thought in the latter part of the game on Thursday [against Texas Tech] we let go of the rope defensively. I told our guys, ‘You can quit outside of our program, but whatever you do in your life, whatever choices you make, you’re allowed to do. And everybody has consequences they have to face, sometimes good, sometimes bad. But you’re not allowed to quit within our program, not allowed to quit in a game, not allowed to quit on a possession, not allowed to quit on your teammates.’ I thought our guys responded with fighting for each other, showing the type of energy that I expect us to have every single day.”
4. Since When?
This is the first time in program history OSU has beaten a No. 1 team in the AP Poll on that team’s home floor.
It’s the first time since 2010 OSU has beaten a No. 1 team in general. On Feb. 27, 2010, James Anderson poured in 27 points to push OSU past No. 1 Kansas 85-77. Matt Pilgrim had 18. Obi Muonelo had 17. Keiton Page had 15.
This is what OSU basketball looked like the last time something of this magnitude has happened:
5. The Big 12 Is as Wild as Ever
The Big 12 has shown its parity a lot in this young season, but Saturday might’ve taken the cake.
A reeling OSU team beat Baylor in Waco. A white-hot Texas Tech fell to a Kansas State team that started league play 0-4. A Top 25 Texas squad fell to an Iowa State team that had lost three of four.
Three Big 12 teams are 3-2 in Big 12 play. West Virginia is 2-2. Three teams are 2-3. That’s seven of the 10 teams already slugging it out in a mosh pit that isn’t too far from 3-1 Kansas nor 1-4 K-State.
This game has to be good for the Cowboys’ confidence. But to get a snowball rolling, the Pokes have to push it through a desert.
“The thing you gotta be careful of in this league is assuming that it just happens,” Boynton said. “It’s a hard league, man. And if you get caught up into what you just did, you’re going to get smacked around the next game. Every coach, every team is fighting for every inch of the court that they have. It’s not just fighting for a shot. You’re fighting for a block out. You’re fighting for a catch. You’re fighting to get open. You’re fighting for loose balls. You’re fighting to get good shots. We have to have the mindset of, yeah you gotta be proud of what you did because you know how hard it was. But when we come back to practice on Monday and we’re thinking about today, we’ll have our hands full on our next one.”
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