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Preview: Baylor vs. Oklahoma State - Round 2

Oklahoma State welcomes the sixth-ranked Baylor Bears to Stillwater for a critical showdown.

NCAA Basketball: Oklahoma State at Baylor Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off their best win of the season at West Virginia, OSU returns home to face another top 10 opponent, as #6 Baylor looks to end it’s two-game skid in Stillwater on Wednesday night.

In their previous matchup over a month ago, the Bears held off OSU 61-57 in Waco to earn their first ever #1 AP ranking. OSU is playing their best basketball of the season and have reeled off five straight victories. Let’s see if the Pokes can keep it rolling tonight, should be a fun one in GIA!

Let’s look at the quick hits for tonights matchup against the Baylor Bears


#6 Bears (20-3, 7-3 Big 12) vs. Cowboys (15-8, 4-6 Big 12)

Time: 6:00 p.m. CST

Location: Gallagher-Iba Arena, Stillwater, OK

TV: ESPNU

Line: OSU -2

Radio: Cowboy Radio Network / Tunein

Stream: WatchESPN.com (requires provider login)

Live Stats: okstate.statbroadcast.com


The Opponent

After beginning the season unranked, Baylor skyrocketed on to the scene with non-conference victories over #4 Oregon, #24 Michigan State, #10 Louisville, and #7 Xavier. Then, after edging the pokes in a tight game on January 7th, Baylor earned their first ever #1 ranking in school history. In fact, going from unranked in week 1 to number one overall in week 9 is the fastest ascent to the top in rankings by any team in the history of college basketball.

The key to success for this Baylor team? Defense Defense Defense. The Bears lead the conference in FG% defense (38.6%) rebounding margin (+7.8) and scoring defense (61.4 ppg). In addition to being tops in the Big 12 defensively, Baylor ranks 5th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency. However, It’s important to note, Baylor is actually last in the Big 12 in turnover margin. They guard you and force you into tough shots and long possessions, but they don’t gamble or put a ton of pressure on the ball (opposite from West Virginia).

After starting the season 20-1, Baylor has dropped their past two games, at Kansas (understandable) and at home to Kansas State (not understandable). However, even after dropping two games in a row, the Bears come into Stillwater ranked #1 in the RPI and are still very much in the mix for a number one overall seed come march.

Players to Watch

Johnathan Motley

Motley is one of the best rebounders in the country. He leads the Big 12 in offensive rebounding (3.6) AND defensive rebounding (6.1). Motley shoots over 50% from the field and is also 5th in the Big 12 in scoring at 16.2 ppg. He is the Bears best all-around player and should be a lock for first-team all Big 12. A tough matchup for OSU’s front-court.

Manu Lecomte

A transfer from Miami, Lecomte has been a huge addition for the Bears this season and is a big reason they are off to a hot start. He shoots just under 50 percent from inside the arc and 42 percent from three point range, both solid numbers for a guard. He also dishes out 4.3 assists per game, tops on the team for the Bears.

Jo Lual-Acuil

Lual-Acuil is the big man in the middle and the defensive anchor for Baylor. At 7 feet tall, he leads the Big 12 in blocked shots per game (2.7) and is 6th in the conference in rebounding (7.1). He is also shooting 58% from the field this season and will be a handful down low for the cowboys.


NCAA Basketball: Oklahoma State at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Keys to the Game

  1. Value each possession. This is important in pretty much every game, but especially important against Baylor. The Bears won’t turn you over very often at all, so it’s important to not force the issue and not make things harder for yourself. There will be plenty of good looks available from the outside, OSU needs to be patient and work the offense.
  2. Clean up the glass. Again, this is something that is important in all games, but even more so against Baylor. The Bears lead the conference in rebounding margin, and it’s one of the key advantages they have over teams. Baylor doesn’t have a great first shot offense and rely heavily on second chance opportunities. Solomon, Carroll, Hammonds, and Dillard will need to be excellent on the glass tonight.
  3. Get out in transition. Baskets down low will be hard to come by in the half court offense. Baylor is big, long and their zone defense makes if awfully crowded in the paint. OSU needs to use its speed to its advantage get out on the break. The pokes will fair much better in transition compared to the half court, where Baylor’s defense can be overwhelming.

Prediction

OSU is playing some of the best basketball in the country right now. After losing a close one to Baylor earlier in the season, this is a completely different basketball team compared to the one in Waco a month ago. OSU hands Baylor their third consecutive loss and takes down another top 10 opponent tonight in a rowdy GIA (please don’t storm the court).

OSU 75 - Baylor 68.