STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — It’s hard to believe it took this long, but Baylor had endured several gut-wrenching losses away from home this season already and entered the day 0-7 in true road games.
That finally changed Tuesday night as Manu Lecomte scored 18 points and added four assists to help lead Baylor to a 67-56 victory over Oklahoma State.
Nuni Omot had 14 points and five rebounds and Tristan Clark scored 10 points in just 16 minutes of play for Baylor (14-10, 4-7 Big 12). Mark Vital just missed a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds, as the Bears claimed their sixth straight win over Oklahoma State.
“It felt great, honestly,” Omot said. “Any win feels great but on the road, especially in the Big 12, it’s hard to get a win because every team competes and is good. You can’t let off on anybody.”
Following a 57-54 loss at then-No. 2 West Virginia on Jan. 9 and a 70-67 defeat at No. 10 Kansas on Jan. 20, the Bears dropped a 98-96 decision at No. 12 Oklahoma last week, so they felt they were due.
“Long time coming,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew. “We’ve been close, so it’s great to finally break through. I especially love it for the players. It’s great to see them excited and happy, because we’ve had a number of tough losses on the road.”
Kendall Smith scored 15 points with four rebounds and Mitchell Solomon had 13 points, five rebounds and a career-high four steals for Oklahoma State (14-10, 4-7). The Cowboys, whose 56 points are one off their season low (in a 72-55 loss to Texas A&M back on Nov. 20), are now 1-4 in their last five outings.
“Obviously, a really disappointing night for us,” said OSU coach Mike Boynton. “There’s some things we have to correct. It was a great opportunity for us out there and we missed it.”
Boynton viewed his team’s performance at the free-throw line as symptomatic of a lack of focus, as the Cowboys made just two of their first eight free throws and finished 7 for 15 overall. They entered the day leading the Big 12 at 76.5 percent.
It was a disappointing result for Oklahoma State, which was coming off an emotional 84-79 victory over then-No. 7 Kansas last Saturday.
“We played like Saturday’s game was going to matter today, like it was going to carry some weight tonight and help us,” Boynton said. “We have to create our own energy every night, we have to have the same focus, no matter the opponent, no matter the venue, because every game is different and every atmosphere is different – when we figure that out, we’ll take a big step forward.”
Baylor shot 63 percent (17 for 27) in the first half and built a 14-point lead early in the second. Oklahoma State battled its way back to within 57-52 with 5:21 left when Smith sank a 3-pointer from the right corner, but that was as close as the Cowboys would get.
Baylor: After losing four in a row, the Bears have now won two straight and look like a team that is improving. Baylor’s depth continued to play a major role in its success, as it outscored the Cowboys’ bench 22-6. That gave the Bears a ridiculous 95-14 edge in bench scoring over their past three games.
Oklahoma State: Another home game, another big second-half deficit. The Cowboys have made a frustrating habit of falling behind in the second half of home games, before mounting stirring comeback attempts. They won three of those in a row, pulling out inspirational victories over Iowa State, Texas and then-No. 4 Oklahoma, before falling short against TCU on Jan. 30. This time, again, after digging a 14-point hole early in the second half, Oklahoma State responded with an 8-0 run, pulling to within 44-38 on Lindy Waters’ 3-pointer with 13:03 remaining, but they couldn’t complete the job.
Neither team had led by more than four points when Jeffrey Carroll sank a 3-pointer with 4:20 remaining in the first half to put Oklahoma State up 30-28. That quickly changed as Baylor reeled off a 16-0 run over the next nine minutes to build a big lead early in the second. Lecomte scored 11 in the spurt, as the Cowboys missed 10 straight shots over that span. That big advantage enabled the Bears to withstand OSU’s second-half comeback attempt.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
With 11 straight points over the final four minutes of the opening half, Baylor entered the second with a 39-30 lead, marking the first time in the last 12 games that the Bears were ahead at halftime. After pulling out the victory, Baylor is now 10-0 this season when leading at the break.
Baylor: The Bears return home to face No. 10 Kansas on Saturday, a team they lost to 70-67 at Allen Fieldhouse on Jan. 20.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys also have a tough matchup, going on the road to take on No. 19 West Virginia on Saturday.
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