Kansas City, MO – Phil Forte hit two free throws with 2.9 seconds remaining as No. 14 Oklahoma State survived a furious late Baylor rally to down the Bears, 74-72, on Thursday in Big 12 Conference quarterfinal action.
Forte finished with 14 points and shot a perfect 6-of-6 from the free throw line for the Cowboys (24-7), who advance to face familiar foe Kansas State in the semifinal round on Friday.
Marcus Smart scored a team-high 21 points and pulled down five rebounds and Le'Bryan Nash added 14 points in the victory. The Cowboys defeated the Wildcats, 76-70, last Saturday to end the regular season.
"We lost a little bit of focus," Smart said. "We came out in the second half, we're up 18, and we didn't really match their intensity like we should have in the first ten minutes. They came out ready and more energized than we expected them to. At this level, this time of the season, you've got to expect it at all times. You can't have any slip ups or 'oh, shoot' moments."
Pierre Jackson scored 24 of his 31 points in the second half for the Bears (18-14), who trailed by 18 at the break and improbably tied the contest on a rare four-point play with 19 seconds remaining. A.J. Walton added 13 and Cory Jefferson had a double-double with 10 points and 10 boards in defeat.
Two Smart free throws with just under five minutes to play gave Oklahoma State a 57-49 edge, before Baylor fought back with an 11-6 spurt that Gary Franklin capped off with a trey to bring the Bears within 63-60 with 2:24 to play.
Nash then extended the lead to five points twice, as his jumper with 1 1/2 minutes remaining made it 67-62. Jackson, though then had a quick lay-in and on the other end of the floor, Michael Cobbins made 1-of-2 free throws.
Jackson stayed hot, however, and nailed a triple with 39 seconds to keep the pressure on and bring Baylor within one. Forte calmly sank two free throws to bring the advantage to three. Jackson hit 1-of-2 free throws which led to Smart making 2-of-2 free throws and it looked like Oklahoma State would finally hold on.
Then the unlikely happened with Baylor down four, as Franklin was left wide open in the corner with 19 seconds left, and not only hit a 3-pointer, but was fouled on the play by Forte for a four-point swing and tie game.
Forte drove into the lane with time winding down and was fouled by Deuce Bello before putting in the deciding points.
Jackson's three-point play seven-plus minutes into the second half capped off a 15-5 Baylor flurry to close the deficit to 47-39.
The Cowboys didn't settle for field goals, but rather free throws, allowing Baylor to sneak its way back into the contest. Oklahoma State had a streak from the 12:21 mark to 3:50 of the second half, in which its only points came from the charity stripe. The only field goals on each end of the streak were courtesy of Nash.
Baylor struggled throughout the first half as it managed just 24 points on 8- of-32 shooting -- including 0-for-13 from 3-point range.
"Joe Lunardi, we'll see what his final bracket says, because he's usually pretty good," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "But I think with the committee -- I think a perfect example is VCU a couple of years ago, whenever it was, they went to the Final Four, and people were like, Why did they get in? Well, the committee knew they were a Final Four-type team."
Oklahoma State leads the all-time series with Baylor 53-19 and has a 11-1 mark on neutral courts ... Baylor shot 36.7 percent from the floor (22-of-60) compared to 45.8 percent (22-of-48) for Oklahoma State ... The Cowboys connected on 25-of-33 from the charity stripe ... Markel Brown and Cobbins had 11 and 10 points, respectively, for OSU.