It could've been one of the more embarrassing Baylor losses ever -- and that's saying something.
But credit to Scott Drew's team for composing itself in overtime and winning 70-64 over the asteroid that is Oklahoma State to improve to 5-8 in the league and get its third straight victory in the process. That's needed progress for a Bears team that was teetering two weeks ago very much the way Oklahoma State is teetering now.
The Cowboys played their third and final game without Marcus Smart Monday night. Smart's missed the past three OSU games due to a suspension tied to his physical altercation with a Texas Tech fan on Feb. 8.
Leyton Hammonds' steal-and-3 in the final seconds of regulation wound up only sparing Travis Ford's team five more minutes of owning a six-game losing streak. Because now that streak has stretched to seven, the longest slump in program history since the 1972-73 season.
The losses are not all because of Smart's absence; he played in more of the losses than he missed. Smart, by the way, spent a few minutes Monday night lamenting at an Oklahoma State-themed Twitter account, basically asking, "Why all the negativity, bro?"
The team desperately needs him back, but his return hardly guarantees a change of fortune for this talented team that's caught one of the worst losing bugs of any group we've seen in recent history. (In that way, they also remind you of Baylor.)
But since the Cowboys are a fringe NCAA tournament team playing in the toughest league in America, this double-edged sword sits before them. They have chances, but even more than that, they are challenges. Smart's return is vital -- in general he was playing well leading up to the sitting, even if the team wasn't in sum -- but there's no indication the team will be able to suddenly become a consistent winner again, let alone anything of top-25 caliber.
The 16-10 Cowboys have a very winnable home game against Texas Tech on Saturday, then a road trip to TCU a week from tonight. That provides an opportunity for a reprieve. A way to get some wins, stability and confidence once more. After that comes the two biggies: home to Kansas and then Kansas State. Winning those will ultimately determine OSU's standing.
The next two games are for the program. The two after that are for the NCAA tournament selection committee. And one final shot comes in a very tough spot, the season finale on the road against Iowa State. Minimally, OSU's going to need to go 3-2 to close out its season to have hopes reasonable in getting a bid. We can't speak to the Big 12 tourney yet because we don't know where OSU will fall and what will be at stake in the greater bubble picture then.
It's wild to think where this team is now compared to October, when the Final Four was a logistical goal and many thought this would be the group to knock of Kansas and become the first team in 10 years to win the Big 12 not nicknamed "Jayhawks."