The Oklahoam State Cowboys fell to the Baylor Bears in early January in a 79-62 defeat. Now, the Bears head to Cowboy country for their final meeting in the regular season. While the Cowboys have a lot of things to work on as a unit, there is only one statistic that OSU needs to drastically improve in order to upset the #17 team in the country —rebounding. Baylor is atop the Big 12 standings in rebounding margin for a good reason. The last time these two teams met, senior forward Rico Gathers had 17 rebounds en route to his career board No. 1000. Oklahoma State, on the other hand, had 18 total. The final rebounding count was 44-18 in favor of the Bears. The Cowboys won’t beat Stillwater High School if they get outrebounded by 26.
It is easy to forget that this was a close game midway through the second half. Down by just three, Baylor went on a 17-0 run to all but put the game on ice. Despite getting mauled on the boards, Jawun Evans & Co. were able to keep the game manageable. OSU won’t win the rebounding margin, but they can still win this game. Evans was held in check, scoring only eight points, while Jeffrey Carroll led the Pokes with 15. In front of a rejuvenated Gallagher Iba Arena, Oklahoma State has been playing a lot better. At home, this is a team that can compete with Oklahoma and blow out Kansas. On the road, this is a team that loses to Baylor and Kansas State without much of a fight.
If the Cowboys ever needed a big game out of Leyton Hammonds, it would be now. Hammonds is leading the team with a mere five rebounds a game, and he will need every bit of that when he faces the conference's leading rebounder. Anthony Allen Jr. and Mitchell Solomon will need to play solid minutes and Chris Olivier will be asked to contribute in the paint, as he’s done all year.
Baylor presents a serious mismatch for Oklahoma State, and if the Pokes can’t stay out of foul trouble again, this game will get out of hand quickly. Still, for as streaky as the Pokes have been recently, playing at home seems to give the Cowboys a boost. It would be fun to pick OSU in this one, but Baylor is just too physical of a team. It will be closer than it was on Jan. 5, but the Bears won’t be intimidated by GIA and will most likely sneak out of here with a win.