The 22nd-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys are back in the national rankings this week, and they will try to prove their worth as they play host to the Baylor Bears in Big 12 Conference action at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
Baylor began its Big 12 slate with wins in five of its first six bouts, but it has since fallen back to 5-3 in league play following its first two-game slide of the season. The Bears most recently went into hostile territory at Iowa State last Saturday and suffered a 79-71 defeat.
Oklahoma State spent much of the first two months of the season in the Top-25 following a 10-1 start, but it promptly dropped out by losing four of its next six games. The Cowboys are back on the winning track however, claiming three straight victories, with their most impressive win of the season coming this past Saturday in an 85-80 decision at No. 2 Kansas.
Oklahoma State has a stranglehold on the all-time series with Baylor, leading 50-20, but the Bears have won eight of the last 12 meetings, including the first matchup this season, 64-54, in Waco on Jan. 21.
Baylor actually outshot Iowa State from the field in its latest game, 42.9 percent to 42.4 percent, but it ultimately fell short by getting into foul trouble, as the Cyclones claimed a 25-11 edge in points from the stripe. Pierre Jackson was fantastic in defeat, scoring 23 points while also dishing out six assists. A.J. Walton added 13 points, and Isaiah Austin tallied nine points and 10 rebounds. On the season, only Kansas boasts a greater scoring margin than the Bears' +12.0 mark, which is mostly thanks to the Big 12's second-ranked scoring offense (75.8 ppg). Jackson is arguably the league's best playmaker, as he ranks first in both scoring (19.1 ppg) and assists (5.9 apg). Taking the pressure off Jackson is one of the nation's best frontcourt duos in Austin (14.5 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 1.1 bpg) and Cory Jefferson (12.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 2.0 bpg).
Oklahoma State led Kansas by as many as 13 points in the first half but saw that lead evaporate down the stretch, and it trailed by one with just over three minutes to play. The Pokes responded with a 10-2 run however, as they pulled away from one of the top teams in the country. Markel Brown was on fire in the triumph, shooting 7-of-10 from 3-point land on his way to a season-high 28 points. After logging 21 points and seven assists in a win over Iowa State earlier in the week, Marcus Smart tallied 25 points, nine rebounds and five steals in earning Big 12 Player of the Week honors. The Cowboys have been steady at both ends of the floor this season, ranking fourth in the conference in both points scored (71.8 ppg) and allowed (60.2 ppg). Brown is the club's go-to scorer as he nets 15.5 ppg, while Smart is one of the most talented freshman in the country, filling his stat sheet with 14.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 4.6 apg, 2.9 spg and 0.8 bpg. Le'Bryan Nash (13.2 ppg) and Phil Forte (11.9 ppg) round out the balanced attack for OSU.