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WACO, Texas — Bryce Thompson always believed he would have his moment.
Injuries prevented it a year ago at Kansas. Inconsistency mired this season at Oklahoma State.
But Thompson knew a breakthrough was coming.
Finally, it did.
“I wouldn’t want it in any other game,” Thompson said.
With the Cowboys reeling from a grueling cross-country road trip of losses, Thompson made nearly every clutch play.
He hit jump shots. He hit big free shots in the final seconds. He had big steals.
And the Cowboys did what they’ve never done before — beat an Associated Press No. 1-ranked team on the road with a stunning 61-54 upset of Baylor on Saturday inside the Ferrell Center.
“I wanted to win so bad,” Thompson said.
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Thompson, a five-star recruit from Tulsa Booker T. Washington, had 19 points on 7-of-15 shooting, two rebounds and two assists.
“All I can attest to is just the work,” Thompson said. “Just putting lots of hours in for it. It’s like another rep. I’ve been blessed with gifts and talents and I’m just able to go out there and exercise them to the best of my ability.”
After traveling 2,904 miles for losses at West Virginia and Texas Tech in just six days, the Cowboys’ final 350 miles back to Gallagher-Iba Arena were the happiest of the season.
The win was OSU’s first against a top-ranked opponent since beating Kansas in 2010. Baylor had not lost back-to-back home games since the end of the 2016 season.
“I know the kind of people we have in the locker room, what kind of heart we have,” OSU coach Mike Boynton said about his message in the final minutes. “I know that these guys have been disappointed that they haven’t been able to get the job done prior to today this week.
“So, I just encouraged them that they had put themselves in position to do something that no team in our program’s history had done. Coming into today, I know they had lost Tuesday, but they were still the No. 1-ranked team in the country.”
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The Cowboys (9-7, 2-3 Big 12) have been a super-inconsistent team throughout the season. Losing their postseason hopes when the NCAA denied their appeal took a toll. Losses confused and frustrated players.
The talent was there. The wins weren’t.
“We just had to remind ourselves we’re built for these type of games,” OSU forward Tyreek Smith said. “We should be in the top of the Big 12 but things got off slow. I feel like this could be a start to move forward in the right direction.”
OSU started and finished strong.
The Cowboys went on a 12-0 run early and led by as much as 18 points in the first half. Baylor (15-2, 3-2) started 1 for 13 from 3-point range and made just one more in the half while shooting 25.8% overall.
And nearly each time Baylor got going in the second half, OSU had an answer with Thompson.
LJ Cryer, who had 18 points, hit a basket to get within 11, but Rondel Walker followed with a 3-pointer and Thompson cut to the basket and around his defender for a nice floater.
OSU was back up 17 points.
“He showed up today in a big way,” Boynton said of Thompson.
Later, Thompson hit another pullup jumper for an 11-point lead. He also hit another jumper after Walker dove for a ball he deflected that was headed for the baseline, a play Boynton said saved the game.
And even after Baylor cut the deficit to one with 80 seconds remaining, Thompson stayed strong.
After a Bears turnover with 26.6 seconds remaining, Thompson hit two free shots for a 57-54 lead.
Then he intercepted a pass by Adam Flagler with 16 seconds remaining before he was fouled. It was his second steal of the day in by far his best defensive performance of his young career.
“That’s nothing,” Thompson said. “In the heat of the moment you gotta be locked in.”
Thompson then made both free shots as Baylor fans started to exit with the Bears trailing 59-54. Thompson capped the day with a two-handed dunk with 1.5 seconds remaining, yelling near his bench.
A week full of downtrodden moments turned completely around.
And Thompson’s signature game finally became a reality.
“I love that dude,” Smith said. “I love him even more after tonight. That was big time.”
Jacob Unruh covers college sports for The Oklahoman. You can send your story ideas to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @jacobunruh. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: OSU vs. Baylor men's basketball score, game recap of Cowboys' win