STILLWATER — Previously, none of Oklahoma State's losses could be considered bad losses.
But Saturday, at home, against a reeling Baylor team that was playing without its starting point guard, and with a coveted recruit in the house to check things out, falling 76-70 qualifies as bad.
Bad in so many ways.
And suddenly, this Cowboys team, ranked No. 8 when the week began, has lost two straight and finds itself re-examining itself while hardly resembling a squad that was a preseason cofavorite in the Big 12.
OSU coach Travis Ford didn't point fingers after the game, yet directed a collective finger in suggesting his team isn't playing together.
“We have to regroup as a team — not as individuals — as a team,” Ford said. “We're at a crucial point in the season.”
Falling to 16-5 overall and 4-4 in the Big 12, the Cowboys lost at home for the first time this season, with the nation's No. 2 recruit, Myles Turner, looking on. Baylor, meanwhile, avoided its first six-game losing streak since 2009. The Bears also thrived without point guard Kenny Chery, who was a game-time scratch due to a foot injury.
And with the game in the balance late, and a strong Gallagher-Iba Arena crowd of 11,500 trying to will the Cowboys to a win after they trailed much of the way, it was Baylor that made the big plays as Chery's backup, Gary Franklin, fired in three 3-pointers in the final 3½ minutes.
Daggers, all of them.
“He stepped up and made some big-time shots for his team,” said senior guard Markel Brown, the only Cowboy available to the media. “They were timely, too. And they hurt us.”
Before Saturday, OSU's losses to Memphis, Kansas State, Kansas and Oklahoma were all against teams that rank in the top 35 of the RPI.
This was a Baylor team that had only beaten winless TCU in conference play, a team that had lost by double digits in four of its league losses and fell to Texas Tech and West Virginia, the latter in Waco on Tuesday night.
Unlike recent struggles for the Cowboys, this wasn't about foul trouble or the missing Michael Cobbins, although a necessity to double-team the post left Baylor shooters room enough to shoot. And they capitalized, with Brady Heslip and Franklin igniting a 47.8-percent shooting performance from the arc, with the Bears making 11 3-pointers to OSU's six.
Heslip made six 3s, much to Ford's chagrin.
“We let a kid who all he does is shoot 3s, shoot 3s,” he said.
Another telling stat: Baylor owned the bench scoring category, 20-1, holding Phil Forte scoreless after he'd gone for 20 at Oklahoma on Monday and averaged 14.4 in conference play.
With the bench firing blanks, OSU's regulars carried a heavy load. Brown did his best to keep the Cowboys close, scoring a game-high 24 points and knocking down six 3s. Le'Bryan Nash added 19 points. Marcus Smart finished with 15 points, but on 3-of-14 shooting, while missing all seven of his 3-point attempts.
Despite all the negatives, OSU owned the lead, 64-63, at the 4:16 mark after Smart was fouled and made both free throws. But Franklin answered with a 3, then another. And another.
And the Cowboys' hopes for a find-a-way win faded.
“No one is immune to difficult times, I don't care whether it's sports or life,” Ford said. “Everybody runs into difficult times and adversity sets in, no matter what you're in. Nobody is immune to it. We're not playing well. We're in a rut. We have to weather the storm and keep our heads up.
“It does no good to feel sorry for yourself. We've seen many great college teams go through it this year, where they've gone through difficult times. It's how you weather this time and how we respond to it. And the only way we're going to respond to it and have any success is if we do it as a team.
“That's going to be crucial for us, if we do it as a team and not as individuals. That's going to be very important.”