By John Helsley
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Back to even in the Big 12 at 2-2, thanks to their last-minute miracle and overtime win over Iowa State, the Cowboys again face the task of winning a road game.
It hasn’t been easy, with OSU now 1-3 in true road games. The Pokes could have, maybe should have stolen a win at Colorado last week, leading by 12 in the second half.
But then, the same could be said for the Cyclones, who led by 10 in the second half – and six in the final minute – inside Gallagher-Iba Arena.
So the Cowboys are back to even, about where we might have picked them when conference play began.
And now comes a winnable game in Waco.
Once a Top 25 team, the Bears are 12-5 overall and also 2-2 in the Big 12, not quite living up to their preseason hype.
Five keys at Baylor:
1. Bring out the Bears. Baylor can be long inside, with 6-11 Perry Jones, 6-10 Anthony Jones and 6-7 Quincy Acy manning the middle. That trio will pack the lane and make it tough on opposing post players. So it’s up to Keiton Page, Ray Penn and Jéan-Paul Olukemi to pump in some shots from the perimeter and loosen things up for Marshall Moses and Co.
2. Press the Point. The Bears returned three big-time starters in LaceDarius Dunn, Jones and Acy and added one of the nation’s most coveted recruits in Jones. Ekpe Udoh was a major loss, but an underrated subtraction was point guard Tweety Carter, who pushed the ball and started the offense. Baylor is trying to make do at the point and it often shows.
3. Free JP. Olukemi is getting more and more comfortable in his expanded role, slashing and scoring, making mismatches inside with his athleticism and explosive jumping ability. He’s one Cowboy who can create and he’s starting to do just that on a regular basis. He’ll be matched against similar athletes today, so this could be fun.
4. Dunn Deal. Dunn is a premier scorer, averaging 21.6 points a game to lead the Big 12 and rank 10th nationally. He can take over a game and ignite the Ferrell Center crowd. There’s no natural matchup for the Cowboys, with Olukemi probably best suited to defend him, or maybe Markel Brown. No matter who gets the call, the Cowboys can’t afford to let him go off.
5. Who’s In? Against Iowa State, starters Penn and Matt Pilgrim played themselves off the floor with careless play and ill-advised shots. And as the Cowboys rallied down the stretch and pulled away in overtime, Penn and Pilgrim were nowhere to be found, while Brown and Roger Franklin provided positives. Are we witnessing a changing of the guard, or were Penn and Pilgrim just on the receiving end of a serious message?