STILLWATER, Okla. (AP)—A strong first half gave No. 12 Oklahoma State the cushion it needed to hold off Baylor’s late charge.
The Cowboys built a double-digit lead before halftime, held it until the last 5 minutes, then withstood a Baylor rally fueled by a flurry of 3-pointers to win 81-77 on Saturday in the Big 12 Conference opener for both teams.
Mario Boggan overcame foul trouble to score 26 points and grab 13 rebounds— his fourth double-double of the season—and JamesOn Curry added 20 points for Oklahoma State (15-1), which has won four straight since its only loss, by two points to Tennessee on Dec. 18.
“We won,” Curry said. “We probably should have kept our lead, but we won. At the end of the year, if we would have won by 40 or one point it counts as a win.”
Sean Sutton became the first Oklahoma State head coach to win his first career conference game since John F. Maulbetsch did so during the 1921-22 season, when Oklahoma State—then known as Oklahoma A&M—competed in the Southwest Conference.
“We beat a good basketball team,” Sutton said. “It should not have been as close down the stretch as it was. We did some things that we have to learn from when we get into that type of situation.”
Baylor (10-4) had a four-game winning streak snapped. The Bears lost their conference opener for the fifth straight season and extended their losing streak against ranked teams to 24 games, a run that dates to a win over Oklahoma State in 2003.
Baylor is 4-35 in its last 39 road games.
The Bears, who trailed by double digits for most of the second half, hit six 3-pointers in the final 4:21—five by Tweety Carter—and pulled within 77-74 with 17 seconds left on two free throws by Curtis Jerrells.
But Curry went 4-of-4 from the free throw line after that to seal the win.
“During the comeback we executed well on offense and played solid on defense,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “We gave ourselves a shot down the stretch on the road. The good news is we have a young team. The more we get into close games in this situation the more we can win them.”
Baylor, which entered the game shooting 50.3 percent from the field—eighth in NCAA Division I—shot 41.7 percent against Oklahoma State, but reached that percentage in strange fashion, hitting 25.8 percent in the first half and 58.6 percent in the second half.
“I think in the first half, we played about as good of defense as we have played all year long,” Sutton said. “We were active and we did a great job defending the 3-point line. … I think in the second half, our defense softened up.”
Kevin Rogers scored 18 points to lead the Bears, while Carter had 15.
The Cowboys committed only one turnover in the first 11 minutes but struggled to break away from Baylor, leading 17-16 with 10 1/2 minutes left. Then Curry hit two 3-pointers in a 12-2 run that put the Cowboys up 29-18 at the 5:15 mark.
Boggan scored 15 points in the half as Oklahoma State led 37-24. It was Baylor’s lowest-scoring first half of the season and the Bears had only one basket in the final 8 1/2 minutes.
Even a technical foul on Drew with 18:30 left didn’t seem to do much for the Bears, as Oklahoma State pushed its lead to 50-34 by the 13:56 mark on a 3-pointer by Terrel Harris.
Baylor scored the next seven points, but Marcus Dove fed Cooper for a dunk, then came up with a steal and a dunk of his own, putting the Cowboys up 54-41 with 11:27 left.
Baylor trailed by double digits until the final 5 minutes.
Boggan left the game after picking up his fourth foul with 13:14 left and didn’t return until 6:35 remained. He and Curry, who both have scored in double figures in all 16 games, entered the game averaging a combined 40.6 points, the second-highest average for a pair of teammates in Division I.
“We tried to guard him like everybody in the league tries to guard him; you do not do a good job,” Drew said of Boggan. “Not many people have answers for him. We just wish JamesOn was a senior with him.”
Harris, a sophomore guard, returned to the Oklahoma State lineup after a one-game absence. Harris missed the Cowboys’ win Tuesday over Southwestern Oklahoma State with what school officials have described as a non-sports-related eye injury. He wore a protective mask against Baylor and scored 13 points.
The Bears played without starting sophomore center Mamadou Diene, who is battling tendinitis in his knee and a sprained ankle. Freshman Josh Lomers started in Diene’s place but did not score.
Byron Eaton added 10 points for Oklahoma State, which outrebounded Baylor 43-32. Kenny Cooper had eight points and 11 rebounds for the Cowboys, with 10 of those coming on the offensive end. Cooper’s double-digit rebounding effort was the first of his career.