The Big 12 could be renamed the Brutal 10.
There isn’t a better men’s basketball conference in the nation from top to bottom, and Saturday’s five games proved that as each went down to the wire.
No. 12 Kansas held off Kansas State, 73-72, in Lawrence while No. 9 Oklahoma needed overtime to pull off a 102-97 win over No. 16 TCU in Norman. No. 8 Texas Tech rallied for a 72-71 win over No. 2 West Virginia in Lubbock while Oklahoma State came back from a late 12-point deficit to beat Texas, 65-64, in Stillwater.
The only Big 12 game that didn’t end in a single-digit margin was Iowa State’s 75-65 win over Baylor in Ames. But the Bears were within four with 1:21 remaining before the Cyclones pulled away for the 10-point win.
The loss left the Bears tied for last with a 1-4 Big 12 record heading into Monday’s 8 p.m. game against Oklahoma State at the Ferrell Center.
By hitting a few more key shots at the end of games, Baylor’s conference record could easily be reversed. Baylor lost to TCU and West Virginia by three points in each game. The only blowout was a conference opening 77-53 loss at Texas Tech on Dec. 29 in Lubbock.
“That’s the Big 12,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew. “The great thing is it’s all equal, it’s all fair. Everybody plays each other home and away, it seems like every game comes down to the last five minutes, and whoever executes and whoever makes a couple shots during that stretch is usually happy.”
Baylor’s biggest issue throughout conference play has been poor outside shooting. The Bears rank last in the Big 12 with a 39.7 field goal percentage, a 25.3 3-point percentage, and 63.8 points per game.
Nobody has struggled more than point guard Manu Lecomte who has hit 23.7 percent of his field goals and 20.6 percent from 3-point range in conference play.
“Manu’s had some good looks now,” Drew said. “You go through some shooting slumps, and that’s what he’s in. I think our guys have set good screens and gotten him good looks.
“The forced ones you don’t want to take, especially when you’re not making shots. But the good looks, we have confidence and trust in him. He’s a great shooter, so great shooters are going to make more than other shooters. But when he misses, we’ve got to be there to get those rebounds.”
Now 11-6 overall, Baylor is tied for last in the Big 12 with TCU and Iowa State which are both 1-4. Oklahoma State (12-5, 2-3) avoided joining them in the cellar by rallying from a 62-50 deficit with a 15-2 game-ending run to pull off the 65-64 win over Texas.
Forward Tavarius Shine’s tip-in with six seconds remaining capped Oklahoma State’s win. The Cowboys played with more passion against the Longhorns after Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton called his team’s performance “gutless” after an 86-82 loss to Kansas State in Manhattan on Wednesday.
“It made us come out and play harder,” said Oklahoma State guard Brandon Averette. “Right off the bat, you can tell that we came out with a lot more energy than we did last game.”
Forward Jeffrey Carroll leads the Cowboys with a 16.3 scoring average while pulling down 6.3 rebounds per game. Shine is averaging 11.1 points and 4.1 rebounds while guard Kendall Smith is averaging 10.7 points. Forward Mitchell Solomon is averaging 8.9 points and a team-high 6.6 rebounds.
After splitting their first two Big 12 home games with the loss to TCU and a win over Texas, the Bears know they can’t afford to let another game at the Ferrell Center slip away. That’s especially important since the next game is Saturday against Kansas in Lawrence where the Bears have gone winless in 15 trips.
“We just have to forget this one and have a short-term memory loss and just come out and get the (win) at all cost,” said Baylor freshman forward Tristan Clark after the Iowa State loss. “It doesn’t matter what happened this game or the game before that, just get the win. This is all new for me, but we have a lot of seniors, a lot of veterans, so I think we’ll be prepared for it.”