BYU basketball fans who watched Oklahoma State spread out the Cougars defensively and torch them on 11-of-22 shooting from beyond the 3-point line might be disappointed when they hear what coach Mark Pope had to say after the 93-83 loss in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

“Baylor and Oklahoma State have a lot in common,” Pope told the BYU Sports Radio Network. “They really spread the floor. They have guys one through four that can really shoot it. They are really, really aggressive getting to the rim.”

“This league is awesome. As a coach or as an athlete, you couldn’t ask for anything more. It is heaven, man.” — BYU coach Mark Pope

Clearly, though, No. 11 Baylor (8-4, 19-6) is far more talented, and experienced.

That doesn’t bode well for the Cougars, who host the Bears Tuesday night at the Marriott Center (7 p.m. MST, ESPN) in a rematch of a Jan. 9 game in Waco, Texas, that Baylor won 81-72 to drop BYU’s Big 12 mark to 0-2.

BYU (6-6, 18-7) has won six of 10 league contests since then, but the discouraging loss in Stillwater, coupled with a lackluster defensive effort in last Tuesday’s 90-88 win over UCF, caused it to drop to No. 25 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll released Monday.

“There are a lot of things we can take from this game and hopefully apply them successfully to the Baylor game,” Pope said.

Guarding better would be a good place to start. And keeping the Bears off the free-throw line.

That didn’t happen in Waco, as Baylor went 21 of 28 from the free-throw line (BYU was just 11 of 14) and made 10 3-pointers, which had been tied for the most triples against the Cougars this season until OSU bettered that mark by one.

Related
Loss to Oklahoma State shows No. 19 BYU still has defensive issues, little margin for error
Analysis: Pillow-soft defense dooms No. 19 BYU to humbling loss at Big 12-worst Oklahoma State

“I thought Baylor did a tremendous job of spreading us out and kind of attacking us off the bounce,” Pope said immediately after the game at 7,500-seat Foster Pavilion. “We kinda lost the integrity of our shell defensive principles a little bit. The gaps became a little bit bigger. … It was a combination of the 3-point line and the free-throw line and then some stuff right at the rim, which is exactly what efficient offensive teams do.”

BYU was ranked No. 18 and Baylor was No. 14 in that game six weeks ago, so not a lot has changed in that regard.

BYU was fairly healthy back then, as junior post Fousseyni Traore was returning to action after battling hamstring issues the previous six weeks. The Cougars are mostly healthy now, after fellow post player Aly Khalifa and power forward Noah Waterman battled illnesses earlier this month.

Forward Jalen Bridges lit up BYU for 25 points on 7-of-14 shooting in that nine-point win, but hasn’t scored more than 17 points in any game since. Freshman Ja’Kobe Walter added 16 and sophomore forward Langston Love chipped in 15.

Freshman forward Yves Missi and senior Caleb Lohner, who transferred from BYU to Baylor, did not score.

Love has been out with an undisclosed injury since scoring six points in 28 minutes against Texas Tech on Feb. 6; Walter is now Baylor’s leading scorer, with a 14.5 average, while RayJ Dennis chips in 13.4 points per game.

Lohner started in 44 of his 62 games at BYU, and averaged 7.0 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. He hasn’t seen nearly as much playing time with the Bears and is averaging just 2.0 points and 7.9 minutes per game this season.

Cougars on the air


No. 11 Baylor (8-4, 19-6)
No. 25 BYU (6-6, 18-7)
Tuesday, 7 p.m. MST
Marriott Center, Provo, Utah
TV: ESPN
Radio: 102.7 FM/1160 AM


Missi scored a career-high 25 points against TCU on Jan. 27 and has averaged 15.2 points in his last seven games. The 7-footer from Cameroon is considered an NBA draft prospect, and represents another big challenge for Traore and Khalifa inside after OSU freshman center Brandon Garrison had 21 points on 7-of-8 shooting against the Cougars Saturday.

Pope said the Cougars signed up for this and wouldn’t have it any other way in their inaugural season in the Big 12.

“This league is awesome. As a coach or as an athlete, you couldn’t ask for anything more. It is heaven, man,” he said. “If you like to compete, this is where you want to be, and if you don’t get to be here you feel sad, because you want to go compete. And so it is real blessing for us to be able to be in this league.”

Baylor guard Jayden Nunn reacts during game against BYU, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024, in Waco, Texas. Baylor won 81-72. | Gareth Patterson, Associated Press