KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Umoja Gibson’s driving layup with 49 seconds left to play clinched a 72-67 victory for Oklahoma as the Sooners beat Baylor, 72-67, in the Big 12 quarterfinals.
Oklahoma (18-14) will now face either Iowa State or Texas Tech in the Big 12 semifinals at 8:30 p.m. on Friday.
The Sooners were already up by three points after a Jordan Goldwire basket. But, after getting possession of the ball from the Bears (26-6) and taking their final timeout, the Sooners put the ball in the hands of their senior and let him create.
With Baylor freshman Jeremy Sochan defending him, Gibson drove to his left and got to the basket for the layup, drawing a foul from Sochan in the process. Up five, Gibson emerged emotional and celebrated with the Oklahoma band, which was on the baseline.
Gibson made the free throw and the Sooners handled the game from there. He finished with 15 points, one of five Sooners in double figures.
Oklahoma had far more to play for than Baylor. Regardless of what happened in Kansas City, the Bears were headed for the NCAA Tournament next week. The only difference for the Bears might be whether they’re a No. 1 or a No. 2 seed.
For the Sooners, they’re trying to play their way onto the NCAA Tournament bubble. In ESPN’s most recent Bracketology, released on Thursday morning, the Sooners weren’t even among the first eight teams out of the tournament — and that’s after a three-game winning streak to end the regular season.
The Sooners need to win the Big 12 Tournament to ensure a berth in March Madness. Short of that, every win counts.
The Sooners used a 9-0 run to take a 55-46 lead with 9:40 left in the game. That run was fueled by Jacob Groves and Marvin Johnson. Groves, who finished with 15 points, continued the run started by Jalen Hill, who sparked it with a dunk. Then, Johnson had a dunk of his own and a 3-pointer to put the Sooners in the driver’s seat. Johnson finished with 12 points.
Baylor never went away, of course, but it was Hill that kept creating space for the Sooners. Hill countered three Baylor baskets with three layups of his own as the Sooners took a 61-56 lead with 3:52 left in the game. Hill finished with 10 points.
Baylor’s James Akinjo kept the Bears in it down the stretch and finished the game with 16 points. But it was also Akinjo that missed a 3-pointer right after Gibson’s 3-point play, a shot that would have cut the lead in half. It was Baylor’s last gasp at a win.
Sochan had 13 points, while Matthew Mayer and Flo Thamba had 10 points each. Baylor had a 33-27 lead at halftime, in part due to a Sochan 3-point play to end the half.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.