(left) couldn't get into a rhythm as Oklahoma State lost to Baylor. (Brody Schmidt/AP)
It's time to ask the same question about No. 8 Oklahoma State that we have been asking of Baylor since the start of Big 12 play: What’s going on? The Cowboys suffered their third loss in four games Saturday, a 76-70 defeat at the hands of a Bears team that came in riding their own five-game losing streak.
Cowboys guard Markel Brown scored 24 points on 6-of-8 shooting and forward Le’Bryan Nash had 19 on 7-of-11, but preseason All-American Marcus Smart went 3-for-14 and 0-for-7 from three-point range. The Bears, meanwhile, got six threes and 20 points from guard Brady Heslip and forward Cory Jefferson had 11 points and 13 rebounds.
It was Baylor guard Gary Franklin, however, who made the biggest plays down the stretch. With the Cowboys leading 64-63 after a timeout near the 3:30 mark, Franklin drilled a three. He nailed another trey near the two-minute mark and then one more with 45 seconds to go that put the Bears up five and the game out of reach.
Given how poorly Baylor had played of late, Saturday’s win counts as one of its most impressive road W’s of the season. Baylor was beginning to fade from the NCAA tournament picture; a win like this will surely improve its at-large standing. Even more notable is that the Bears won this game without starting point guard Kenny Cherry, who sat out with an ankle injury. Better still, the Bears have an opportunity to notch another big win Tuesday night when they host No. 6 Kansas.
Oklahoma State opened the season 12-1, but it’s just 4-4 since losing forward Michael Cobbins for the season to injury. Sure, the Cowboys have faced stronger competition since Cobbins went down, but a .500 conference record less than two months out from Selection Sunday is less than what the Cowboys -- who received as many first place votes as Kansas in the Big 12 preseason coaches poll -- were expected to accomplish.
In Smart, Brown and Nash, Oklahoma State still have the talent to finish near the top of the Big 12. They just haven’t played that way recently. The Cowboys aren’t in any real danger of missing the NCAA tournament, but they could use a win over No. 16 Iowa State at home on Monday. Like Saturday’s game, that’s one Oklahoma State, if it plays to its potential, should win.