KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – Pierre Jackson slipped up the sideline, pulled up at the 3-point arc and let loose at the buzzer with a shot he thought was in all the way.
Instead, it clanked harmlessly off the back of the iron.
After leading the Bears on a mighty second-half comeback against No. 14 Oklahoma State, and scoring 31 points in the game, Jackson could only wonder what might have been following a 74-72 loss to the Cowboys in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament.
“I definitely thought it went in,” said Jackson, who dropped face-first to the floor inside the Sprint Center as the buzzer sounded. “Those are kind of the moments you live for, being able to take that last shot and help your team out, and I wasn’t able to hit it for my team.”
Baylor trailed by 20 early in the game, but had managed to tie it 72-all when Gary Franklin hit a 3-pointer from in front of his own bench and was fouled by the Cowboys’ Phil Forte. He hit the ensuing foul shot with 19.1 seconds left up to set up a dramatic ending.
The Cowboys came down the floor and got the ball in the hands of Forte, and he was bumped in the lane by the Bears’ Deuce Bello. A whistle sounded and Forte went to the line, and the 91-percent foul shooter calmly drained both of them to give the Cowboys the lead.
It was the most important foul called in a game full of them.
“Three weeks you’ve been on the bubble struggling, trying to get into the tournament. You win, you get in, you lose, no,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said after reviewing the call. “Would you want the game to come down to that play?”
When Jackson’s 3-pointer at the buzzer missed, the Oklahoma sideline erupted.
“I know the feeling of frustration, of missing that last second shot, and giving your team a chance,” said the Cowboys’ Marcus Smart, who scored 21 points. “Much respect goes out to him and that Baylor team.”
Forte and LeBryan Nash had 14 each for the Cowboys (24-7), who advanced to play No. 11 Kansas State in the tournament semifinals Friday night. The Wildcats routed Texas in the quarterfinals.
A.J. Walton had 13 points, and Cory Jefferson had 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Bears (18-14), who are left to wonder whether they’ve done enough to make the NCAA tournament.
They were sitting firmly on the bubble before the game.
“They’ve won a lot of big games, a lot of big games in this league,” Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said. “I don’t know about the numbers things, but if you know basketball and you know that team, that’s a team that could win a lot of games in the NCAA tournament.”
Baylor won the first meeting between the two schools in January, and Brown’s lay-in with less than a second left gave the Cowboys an overtime victory in February in Stillwater, Okla.
The rubber game wasn’t much of a game at all in the first half.
Oklahoma State crept out to a 13-8 lead in the opening minutes, and then went on a 15-3 run to take control. Just about everybody got into the act — Brown hit a 3-pointer, Brian Williams had his only bucket of the half, and Forte poured in a 3 of his own from the wing.
Three times during the run, Drew called a timeout trying to stop it.
The Cowboys wound up leading 42-24 at halftime.
“I was shocked we were up by as much as we were,” Ford said.
Jackson, the Big 12’s top scorer, was just 2 of 11 from the field and 0 for 7 from beyond the arc in the first half, and the Bears missed all 13 of their 3-point tries.
Jackson finally hit Baylor’s first 3 immediately out of the break, and the Bears started to cut into what had been a 20-point deficit. Jackson’s driving layup and free throw to convert a three-point play made it 47-39 with 12:38 left in the game.
The teams started trading blows — quite literally — down the stretch, and a parade of free throws ensued. At one point, the Bears went to the line on three straight offensive possessions, and the teams combined to shoot 62 foul shots in the game.
“The second half was more about Baylor than it was about us,” Ford said. “Baylor really played great defense.”
Jackson got the Bears within 68-67 with his 34-pointer with 38.5 seconds left, and Forte hit two free throws for the Cowboys. Jackson was fouled at the other end and could only make the first of two free throws, and Baylor was forced to foul again.
This time, it was Smart who made two free throws.
Franklin’s four-point play kept the Bears’ dream comeback alive, Forte’s two free throws in the final seconds started to snuff it out, and Jackson’s open look from the wing as time expired ended Baylor’s Big 12 tournament in heartbreak.
“Everyone who stayed,” Drew said, “saw a heck of a game.”
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