Oklahoma St.-Baylor Preview
After upsetting Big 12 leader Kansas, Oklahoma State would like to continue its resurgence with a historic third straight victory over a ranked opponent and its first sweep of Baylor in nine years.
The 16th-ranked Bears get their shot at the Jayhawks next weekend, but first they'll try to keep pace with their 18th win in 19 home games and ninth in a row there over No. 21 Oklahoma State on Monday night.
The Cowboys (16-7, 6-5) have worked their way up the standings by winning three of four in a five-game stretch against ranked league opponents.
Le'Bryan Nash led the way with 18 points Saturday, while Anthony Hickey Jr. had 15 and Phil Forte overcame the flu to score 13 as Oklahoma State rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit for a 67-62 home win over No. 8 Kansas.
The Cowboys, who were coming off Wednesday's 65-63 overtime victory at then-No. 25 Texas, can win three consecutive regular-season games against Top 25 teams for the first time in school history. They're also going for their first regular-season sweep of Baylor (18-5, 6-4) since 2006 - the same year they last won in Waco - and their two impressive victories last week pushed them into the poll in a tie for 21st with West Virginia.
"All we heard was that this was a rebuilding season and that hurt me, because this is my senior year and somebody said this was a rebuilding season," Nash said. "That's why I play with a chip on my shoulder every game and I'm trying to lead my guys in the right way my senior year and trying to win a national championship."
Although Nash and Forte shot a combined 7 for 29 on Feb. 17, the Cowboys came close to ending their road slide in this series in a 70-64 overtime loss. The two players, though, combined for 29 points in a 64-53 win over then-No. 20 Baylor on Jan. 27 to begin this stretch against ranked opponents.
Forte (17.0) and Nash (16.9) are the top-scoring tandem in the Big 12 and rank second and third individually.
Oklahoma State also played well defensively Jan. 27, limiting the Bears to a season-low point total and 34.5 percent shooting. Baylor held a 35-34 rebounding edge, though it ranks third nationally with a plus-10.8 margin.
The Bears have since averaged 82.3 points and 50.6 shooting - including a 24-of-49 effort from 3-point range - while winning their last three to move within two games of Kansas.
"They're really playing at a high level offensively and then obviously they're very good defensively," Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said. "They're playing as well as anyone in the league right now."
Baylor's Rico Gathers had his league-leading 12th double-double with 17 points and 17 rebounds Saturday, while Royce O'Neale and reserve Taurean Prince added 15 apiece in an 87-69 win at then-No. 15 West Virginia.
Gathers, among the top rebounders in the nation, has averaged 16.3 boards in his last three games.
"He does an excellent job fighting and he's becoming more and more skilled because he's working on his game," coach Scott Drew said. "We're really excited to see his progression."
The Bears committed 13 turnovers the first time they faced Oklahoma State's full-court pressure. They might be better prepared after shooting a season-high 54.9 percent against West Virginia's press.
Drew said his squad did a good job taking care of the ball despite giving it away a season-high 19 times.