Oklahoma State fends off late Baylor rally to advance in Big 12 tournament

David Smale, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Pierre Jackson was spectacular for Baylor. Just not spectacular enough.
Jackson's 3-pointer at the buzzer caromed off the rim to the left, giving No. 14 Oklahoma State a 74-72 victory in the second round of the Big 12 Championship Thursday at Sprint Center. Baylor managed to overcome a 20-point deficit to tie the game before Phil Forte hit two free throws with 2.9 seconds left in regulation for the final margin.
"To be honest, my first thought was 'Oh crap,'" Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart said when asked what he was thinking as Jackson's shot sailed through the air. "He had the hot hand and he's a great player. When a player like that gets a hot hand, it's hard to stop him."
Oklahoma State will face No. 11 Kansas State in the Big 12 semifinals Friday night. The Wildcats defeated Texas, 66-49, in an earlier game. Cowboys defeated the Wildcats, 76-70, in the final game of the regular season.
OSU coach Travis Ford is not worried that his team left everything on the floor.
"The second half was more about Baylor than us," Ford said. "I was shocked we were up as much as we were at halftime. I expected a hard-fought game, and that's what it ended up being."
Baylor (18-14) now must await a decision Sunday from the NCAA Men's Basketball Committee regarding their post-season destination. A win in their first game in the conference tournament would have made them feel more comfortable about their chances to go back to the NCAA tournament for the second straight year. The Bears have never gone to consecutive NCAA tournaments.
Both coaches feel the Bears belong. Baylor coach Scott Drew didn't feel like he should have to lobby.
"The committee will have to decide," Drew said. "Who has beaten Kentucky in Rupp and Kansas? I think we can beat anybody in the country. I think we can play in the Final Four."
The Cowboys (24-7) had five players in double figures, led by Marcus Smart with 21 points.
Baylor was led by Jackson with 31 points. A.J. Walton had 13 and Cory Jefferson had 10.
Baylor used a 12-3 run to start the second half to cut the lead to 45-36. Another run of 10-2 got the lead down to 57-53, but the teams kept trading baskets. When Gary Franklin hit a 3-pointer, the lead was down to three points.
"We lost a little bit of focus," Smart said of the drop-off in the second half. "We came out and didn't match their intensity."
The teams traded baskets before Michael Cobbins hit one of two free throws. Jackson hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to one point with 38.5 seconds left. Forte hit two free throws, and Jackson answered with one of two from the line. Smart hit two free throws to give the Cowboys a four-point lead.
Franklin then hit a 3-pointer from the corner and was fouled by Forte with 19.1 seconds left. Franklin's free throw was true and the score was tied.
Forte was fouled by Deuce Bello with 2.9 seconds left. Forte's two free throws provided the winning margin. Baylor got the ball into Jackson, who raced up the right sideline, but his attempt missed to the left.
"I definitely thought it went in," Jackson said of his attempt. "We executed well. Unfortunately it didn't fall."
Oklahoma State left little doubt early on about which team was prepared to play after waiting through two days of basketball. The Cowboys outscored the Bears 21-5 during a stretch of the first half. The Cowboys made 8 of 10 shots during the run, including 3-pointers by Brown and Forte.
The lead reached 20 points at 37-17 on another 3-pointer by Forte.
Baylor tried to dig out of the hole late in the first half. Jackson hit three free throws and then a driving lay-up to cut the lead to 15 points, but Marcus Smart put an end to that with a steal and a reverse, two-handed slam.
NOTES: Thursday's game was the first in the Big 12 tournament between the two schools since 1999. Oklahoma State has won both match-ups in the history of the conference tournament. ... Baylor has never had back-to-back wins against ranked teams. ... Oklahoma State has four players averaging in double figures in scoring, three of whom are guards. Markel Brown (15.6 ppg), Marcus Smart (15.1) and reserve Phil Forte (10.4) are joined by forward Le'Bryan Nash (14.2). ... Oklahoma State won the tournament title in 2004 and 2005. Baylor has never won the title.

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