Here are five thoughts on the Big 12 Conference men’s and women’s basketball games on Wednesday, as there were five games across the conference.
So what happened? Baylor broke a losing streak and West Virginia continued its home winning streak. On the women’s side, Oklahoma handed Kansas State its first league loss, while Iowa State and Kansas both won.
Here are five thoughts on the day.
Baylor Breaks Its Streak
When you lose three games in a row, you need a little something. When you lose three games in a row and you have to break that streak in a Big 12 road game, you need a little Love.
Baylor beat UCF, 77-69, on Wednesday, snapping its three-game losing streak and defusing a UCF homecourt advantage and is quickly becoming hard to deal with.
Enter Langston Love. He delivered a career-high 24 points for the Bears as they overcame a slow start, a 10-point deficit in the first half and a 23-point game from UCF’s Darius Johnson to get back to winning basketball.
Baylor had to overcome a UCF team that shot better than 50 percent connected on 14 3-pointers (Johnson had five of them) and was in no mood to be a pushover as the Knights were without Shermarri Allen and C.J. Walker due to injury. So Johnson stepped up big — he also had 10 assists before he fouled out. So did Jaylin Sellers, who dropped in 14 points.
But the turnovers were killer for UCF. The Knights committed 16 and Baylor turned them into 14 points. Baylor also owned paint scoring, 30-16.
Love also had seven rebounds and is emerging as a Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year candidate after two seasons in which he’s dealt with injuries and fought for playing time. The great thing for Baylor is that he’s fully embraced the role.
Jalen Bridges scored 12, while RayJ Dennis and Yves Missi each scored 11. Oh, and Bridges — who started his college career at West Virginia — did this.
Baylor denied UCF coach Johnny Dawkins his 300th career win. The Bears also denied UCF another home upset of a ranked team.
Kansas State Falls
The Kansas State Wildcats finally lost their first Big 12 women’s game, and it came down to the wire but Oklahoma beat the No. 2 team in the country, 66-63.
Both teams had plenty of incentive to win. Kansas State was hoping to remain undefeated as it entered a stretch where it had to face the Sooners and the Texas Longhorns without center Ayoka Lee. Oklahoma was just one loss back of Kansas State, and a win would move the Sooners into a virtual tie with KSU.
So, here we are. While OU has one fewer win, the two teams have a season split and the Big 12 race is now a much tighter.
OU did it with its defense in the fourth quarter, which isn’t always the case with the Sooners. They held the Wildcats to 10 fourth-quarter points, and that defense was important as OU had its own drought to end the game, failing to make a field goal in the final three minutes.
Skylar Vann led Oklahoma with 21 points. Guards Aubrey Joens and Lexy Keys had 10 points each. But OU won the battle on the glass, 45-40, something it had to do as Kansas State didn’t have Lee.
Fourth quarter aside, Kansas State played well. Guard Serena Sundell nearly had a triple-double — 15 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Gisela Sanchez tied her career high of 18 points, which she set on Saturday. Jaelyn Glenn scored 11 points and the team drained 11 3-pointers.
Turnovers were the biggest culprit. Kansas State committed 17 and Oklahoma turned those into 18 points.
K-State was unlikely to go undefeated with Lee on the shelf. But the Wildcats won four straight without Lee before the loss. Now, K-State is in a position where it really needs to beat Texas on Sunday to avoid making the Big 12 race even tighter.
Meanwhile, OU got its second win over a Top 2 team in program history. The first one was in 2004 against Texas.
This Week’s Big 12 Rip
Last week, it was the American Athletic Conference coming after the Big 12 as it declared itself the “most competitive conference in the country.”
Now, it’s Terrence Oglesby, who is an announcer for the Charlotte Hornets and does other college games for ESPN. Apparently he’s not as impressed with the Big 12 as others. His logic? The Big 12’s non-conference schedule.
Digging into Oglesby’s timeline his chief complaint is that he feels the Big 12 is “gaming” the NCAA Net, which is the tool the NCAA Committee uses to determine the tournament field.
I can’t dispute what he posted about each team’s strength of schedule in non-conference. Ken Pomeroy’s rankings are universally accepted. I’m not educated enough to know how much those non-con wins impact NET. If he has issues with that, he should take it up with the NCAA.
Here’s what I know:
Everyone high-major team schedules this way. No one plays 12-13 high major teams in non-conference. Everyone plays “buy” games to get extra home games and more run for their team. To that end, Jim Root at Second Chance Points and the Action Network noted the average games played against Power 6 teams by each conference. The Big 12 averaged 3.86. The range was from 4.92 (SEC) to 3.08 (Pac-12).
Oglesby’s assertion that “They (the Big 12) haven’t played anyone at all during the nonconference” is complete nonsense. As Root noted, the Big 12 has the best record of any Power 6 league against the other Power 6 leagues.
The Big 12 partners with the Big East to play head-to-head games each year. I believe the Big 12 should do the same with the Big Ten in the future. Everyone picks on Houston’s non-conference schedule, for example. The Cougars beat all three Power 6 teams they faced.
Scan Wednesday’s conference standings and the Big 12 had 13 teams with at least three league wins. Only the ACC has as many.
No conference has had more games decided by five points or less in league play than the Big 12. After Wednesday’s action, 24 of the league’s games were determined by that margin. That’s 44.4% of the league’s games.
What a league does against mid-major and low-major teams in non-conference has nothing to do with what’s happening now in the Big 12 or any other high-major conference. That’s the warm-up. This is the main event. And we settle things in March.
He’s entitled to his opinion. But using a conference’s non-conference strength of schedule in this argument really just smacks of not having a better narrative to lean on.
Country Roads At Home
For all of the issues West Virginia has dealt with this season, the Mountaineers are, somehow, 3-0 at home in Big 12 play. The latest win was against Cincinnati on Wednesday, as WVU won, 69-65.
It might have been the most impressive of the three honestly. That’s saying something considering the other two are against Kansas and Texas.
WVU was down by 10 at one point and went on a furious rally, outscoring Cincinnati 19-5 in the final 6:16 to claim the victory. Forward Jesse Edwards, who played just his second game since returning from a wrist injury, dropped in 25 points and 10 rebounds. Quinn Slazinski had 15 points, while Kerr Kriisa and RaeQuan Battle each had 10.
The mind boggles at what might have been for WVU had the season gone to play.
As for Cincinnati, this was a bad loss for the Bearcats. If they miss the NCAA Tournament, this is a game the Bearcats can point to as a potential differentiator. Cincinnati shot 32 3-pointers and only made nine. Dan Skillings Jr. scored 15, while Simas Lukosius scored 13 and Day Day Thomas added 12.
The Bearcats outrebounded West Virginia and absolutely dominated the Mountaineers on the offensive glass but were outscored in the paint, 34-30.
That’s the difference Edwards makes for West Virginia.
ISU and KU Claim Women’s Wins
Iowa State broke its losing streak and claimed a 78-67 win over Oklahoma State. With Kansas State losing, the win keeps the Cyclones within two games of first place in the standings. Audi Crooks blew up for 29 points for ISU, with Addy Brown scoring 14 points and Ariana Jackson added 12 points. Oh, and Emily Ryan started and did Emily Ryan things, dishing out 14 assists.
Quincy Noble scored 24 for OSU, while Anna Gret Asi scored 13 points and Rylee Langerman added 12 points.
Kansas dropped BYU, 67-53, as Jayhawks center Taiyanna Jackson had the first 20-rebound game of her career, as she finished with 25 points, 22 rebounds and five blocks. S’mya Nichols scored 17 points and Wyvette Mayberry added 11.
BYU’s Kailey Woolston dropped in six 3-pointers and led the Cougars with 26 points, while Amber Whiting and Lauren Gustin added 10 points each. Gustin had 10 rebounds but also fouled out.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.