Oklahoma State basketball reversed its Big 12 slide in the first weeks of 2022 with a resounding 61-54 win at No. 1-ranked Baylor last weekend. How can the Cowboys capitalize on the victory over Bears, the defending national champions ?
The win in Waco on Saturday was the first Cowboys victory on the road against a No. 1-ranked team. It was only the third victory in school history against the nation’s top-ranked team. As OSU senior associate athletic director Kevin Klintworth pointed out after the game, Baylor is now 0-2 against the Cowboys and 21-1 against everyone else in its last 23 games — including winning the 2021 national championship.
Oklahoma State basketball can still look back at the 2021-2022 season as a successful one, as demonstrated by the win at No. 1 Baylor last weekend.
The win came at the end of a five-day, three-game road trip that lasted more than 3,000 miles for the Cowboys, who had lost to Texas Tech and West Virginia before beating the Bears.
With the loss, Baylor also became the first No. 1-ranked AP team to lose two home games in one week.
To be able to look back positively at season’s end, the Cowboys have to maintain the winning mindset. It’s exceedingly difficult to get road wins in the Big 12 Conference, but this team proved that it’s capable of beating the best teams in the nation.
To end the month of January, the Cowboys will travel to face No. 23 Texas, host No. 15 Iowa State, and hit the road again to face Florida as part of the Big 12-SEC Challenge.
OSU is now 9-7 (2-3 Big 12) and with an NCAA-mandated zero chance to make the postseason.
If playmakers like Bryce Thompson emerge, it’s reasonable to see the Cowboys finish the season with a .500 conference record or better. The Kansas transfer is averaging 16.5 points per game on 46.5 percent shooting in the team’s last two outings after a seven-game stretch in which he failed to crack double digits in scoring. The Booker T product had 19 points for the Cowboys in the Baylor win, including scoring the game’s final six points.
Senior guard Isaac Likekele has to continue to lead and help the team stay mentally tough, too. He doesn’t score a lot of points (averaging only 7.3 points per game this year), but he fills up the stat sheet with rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. He’s typically everywhere around the floor for the Cowboys.
The Cowboys have shown their tough defense on several big occasions for this 2021-2022 season, and that’s ultimately going to be the team’s calling card to build on the win at Baylor. The Cowboys rank in the Top 20 nationally (out of 350 Division I teams) in categories like turnovers forced (17.4 per game) and total steals.
If Mike Boynton wants to look back at this season as a success — including losing the No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick, building a team back with a lot of new faces, dealing with the uncertainty and then the gut-punch of NCAA sanctions — the Cowboys will need to finish with a winning record and a .500 mark in conference play.
Something like 16 wins (with no postseason), the emergence of several new faces like Moussa Cisse, and a defining victory against the No. 1 team would be solid momentum builders for the 2022-2023 season.