Oklahoma State basketball: 3 takeaways from Cowboys' loss to Baylor
STILLWATER — Oklahoma State was short-handed, but it still pushed the Big 12 favorite for 30 minutes.
It just wasn’t enough.
Without superstar Cade Cunningham and Rondel Walker, the Cowboys fell short of knocking off No. 2-ranked Baylor with an 81-66 loss Saturday afternoon at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
It was the Cowboys’ first game since Jan. 12, when they upset Kansas.
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A positive COVID-19 test and contact tracing cost them last weekend’s Bedlam matchup. The game against West Virginia this week was already postponed.
And OSU did not practice until Thursday.
Now, the Cowboys are 9-4 overall and 3-4 in Big 12 play entering Monday night’s game at Iowa State.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
POY candidate takes over
Saturday was supposed to be a matchup of National Player of the Year contenders in Cunningham and Baylor’s Jared Butler.
Cunningham warmed up early, but did not play.
Butler instead took over late with a barrage of 3-pointers to seal the victory.
OSU trailed 52-51 with 11 minutes remaining when Mark Vital hit a layup. Then Butler caught fire.
He hit three straight 3s for a 12-point lead. Baylor continued rolling from there for a 16-point advantage. The Bears led by as much as 18 down the stretch.
Butler ultimately finished with 22 points, making 6 of 7 from behind the arc.
In that span of 3-pointers, OSU missed three shots as the Bears tightened up defensively.
Until that point, OSU had led for 20 minutes and 26 seconds.
Quite the start
As tough as the closing 11 minutes turned out, the Cowboys made life tough for the undefeated Bears.
OSU played fearlessly and with a ton of energy in the opening half, riding a strong defensive game plan featuring a mix of zone defenses to offset having just eight players.
And Kalib Boone had a big start, scoring 11 of his career-high 21 points as he returned to the starting lineup in Cunningham’s absence.
The Cowboys led by as much as nine in the half, taking a lead into the half for only the second time this season against Baylor.
The Bears simply looked out of sorts at times, committing unforced turnovers and never looking comfortable against OSU’s stout defense.
This was a good look at the possible future of next season after Cunningham likely departs for the NBA. And it should give the OSU faithful hope.
Give OSU coach Mike Boynton credit: He can coach with a short-handed bench.
Sure, the final score might say otherwise. But with just eight players in uniform, this was an inspiring effort.
The Cowboys just ran out of gas.
Boynton managed his team well two years ago with a short-handed bench. This time, the odds were very low of an upset, yet Boynton put together a strong gameplan.
And the players bought into it.
OSU out-rebounded Baylor 23-12 in the opening half, including seven offensive rebounds. It controlled the game for nearly 29 minutes.
And with the thin bench, guys like Boone, Bernard Kouma and new scholarship player Dee Mitchell played provided key moments.