WACO, Texas – Maybe the executives at ESPN and the Big 12 Conference need to rework the Big Monday portion of the television contract. Instead of the usual two-hour window, an extra half hour is probably needed.
For the third consecutive Monday night, the showcase game on the World Wide Leader needed extra time. And for the second consecutive game Baylor triumphed in overtime. The Bears overcame what could have been a fatal mistake at the end of regulation by controlling the extra five minutes to defeat Oklahoma State, 70-64.
“It was a good game for TV,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said after referencing the Big Monday streak of overtime games. It was also good for the Bears (17-9, 5-8), who won their third in a row.
The Cowboys (16-10, 4-10) lost seventh consecutive game and dropped into ninth place in the Big 12 standings. Oklahoma State, playing the game without Marcus Smart who has served a three-game suspension, its longest losing streak since the 1972-73 season
Baylor played its second consecutive overtime game – the second time that’s happened in school history. Freshman Leyton Hammonds grabbed a poor inbounds pass from the Bears’ Gary Franklin, took two dribbles and nailed a 3-pointer to force overtime. It was his first three since making two from beyond the arc … in the season opener.
"It was almost like the basketball gods wanted us to win," Oklahoma State’s Markel Brown said. "Then they took it back away from us."
The Cowboys were running on fumes down the stretch and in overtime, missing 17 of their last 24 shots. The dagger was supplied by Baylor’s Kenny Chery whose driving layup with the shot clock ticking down gave the Bears a 68-64 lead with 37 seconds remaining.
“We had the perfect scenario and then we let a guy just drive and shoot a layup with four seconds on the shot clock,” Oklahoma State Travis Ford said in exasperation.
In Saturday’s double-overtime victory over Kansas State, the Bears kept the game alive when Brady Heslip hit a 3-pointer after a rebound scramble. What they did to the Wildcats was done to them by Hammonds.
“After I had a heart attack I was brought back to life,” Drew joked. “Our staff was very positive. We took care of business in overtime. “I was really, really proud of how we handled overtime. When you do something like that, it can be devastating, it’s like getting punched in the gut.”
Brown and Phil Forte III combined for 46 points but junior forward Le’Bryan Nash struggled. He scored six points on 2-of-12 shooting. In the second half, Baylor switched from zone to man-to-man and Nash had a difficult time getting shots off despite getting good position around the basket.
“He was either shooting over a 7-footer (Isaiah Austin) or me and we tried to make it as difficult as possible for him,” said Baylor’s Cory Jefferson, who scored 25 with 13 rebounds and gave the Bears an early lead in overtime with a 3-pointer.
Austin, who was ill with a temperature of 101 degrees Sunday night, didn’t score his first basket until 11:41 remained in regulation.
“Everybody has a lot of confidence and we’re going to try to keep that up for this run we’re going to try to make,” said Austin, who finished with 12 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots.
Both teams shot 37 percent and Ford praised his team’s first-shot defense. But Baylor’s best offense was often a missed shot. The Bears had a 51-36 rebounding edge that included 22 offensive boards. That led to a 16 to 1 edge in second-chance points.
“We didn’t rebound the ball and it was the difference in the game,” Ford said. Look at the stats, there’s no reason we should have even been in the game. Other than fight. Other than effort. Other than will. That’s it. There’s no reason other than that.”
Just over two weeks ago, a short-handed Baylor – Chery was sidelined by a turf toe injury – helped start Oklahoma State’s losing skid with a 76-70 victory in Stillwater. That ended a Baylor five-game losing streak. In the rematch, Oklahoma State was the team with the reduced roster.
Unfortunately for the Cowboys, the outcome was the same. Oklahoma State had the lead for nearly 32 minutes and early in the second half pushed its advantage to 10 points. Brown, who averaged 23.3 points in three games during Smart’s absence, played the entire game and finished with 26 points.
“Markel was a big time player tonight,” Ford said. “Big time player … big time player … huge.”
The same can be said of the Big 12’s performances on Big Monday.