STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) - As 2014 approached, Oklahoma State was one of the hottest teams in college basketball.
Now, the Cowboys are in the middle of the Big 12 pack and in danger of falling into a tailspin. Brady Heslip scored a season-high 20 points to help Baylor beat No. 8 Oklahoma State 76-70 on Saturday and end a five-game losing streak.
Oklahoma State lost to Oklahoma 88-76 on Monday night, then lost Saturday to a squad that hadn’t won since Jan. 11.
“We’re playing in spurts right now,” Oklahoma State guard Markel Brown said. “Sometimes, we get out there and relax, and that’s when the other team punches us in the mouth. I feel like we need to just go out there and play hard, never take a play off, battle the boards all night long, no matter how physical the other team has been, and get back out to pushing the ball and sharing it.”
Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford says there’s no time to sulk - the Cowboys host a very good Iowa State squad on Monday, and the wrong attitude likely will mean a longer losing skid.
“We can’t feel sorry for ourselves because it won’t do any good,” he said. “We have to weather the storm. These are tough times. Everyone goes through them. How we respond is important. For us to have success, we need to recover as a team. If we continue to play like individuals, we will continue to struggle.”
Heslip, a senior guard, made 6 of 13 3-pointers.
“We let a kid who all he does is shoot threes, shoot threes,” Ford said.
Rico Gathers scored 14 points, Gary Franklin scored all 11 of his points in the second half and Cory Jefferson had 11 points and 13 rebounds for Baylor (14-7, 2-6 Big 12), which greatly improved its fading NCAA tournament hopes. The Bears had scored fewer than 70 points in four straight games and played without starting point guard Kenny Chery because of a foot injury, but they still shot 52 percent from the field and outrebounded the Cowboys 32-26.
Brown scored 24 points and made 6 of 8 3-pointers and Le’Bryan Nash scored 19 points for Oklahoma State (16-5, 4-4). Marcus Smart added 15 points, seven assists and six rebounds for the Cowboys, but he made just 3 of 14 field goals.
Oklahoma State had rallied from a nine-point deficit to take the lead in the final five minutes before Franklin, who had scored just two points all game, drained three contested 3-pointers in just under three minutes to put Baylor in control.
After the third triple, Royce O’Neal stole the ball and took it in for a dunk to give Baylor a 74-67 edge with 37 seconds to play.
Baylor led 21-15 in the first half before Brown hit 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to give the Cowboys a jolt. Kamari Murphy, who averages 5.8 points per game, scored three baskets in 2:20 to help the Cowboys tie the score at 27.
Gathers converted a 3-point play, then dunked to give Baylor a 32-29 edge. Oklahoma State had a chance to take the lead at halftime, but Smart was called for his second foul on a post-up with 3.9 seconds left in the first half, and Baylor led 32-31 at the break. Oklahoma State shot 52 percent in the first half but was outrebounded 17-12, missed four of nine free throws and committed nine turnovers.
The Cowboys finally took the lead on a pair of free throws by Brian Williams in the opening minutes of the second half, but Baylor gained it right back on a 3-point play by Austin.