KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Baylor Bears are one of the best teams in the country once again this season, with 26 wins and another Big 12 Tournament title in their sights.
The Bears’ season is not unblemished, of course. Five losses. All have come to either ranked teams or teams that were ranked at some point this season.
But only one team has beaten the Bears twice this season — Oklahoma.
“I feel like it’s a time of redemption, an opportunity to redeem the two losses where they got us at home and at their place,” Baylor forward NaLyssa Smith said.
The Sooners won the first matchup, 83-77, on Jan. 12 in Norman. At the time, the Bears were coming off a 10-day COVID-19 pause. It was Baylor’s second loss in a row in Big 12 action. That was OU’s first win over Baylor since 2015 and the program’s first win over a Top 15 team at the time. Baylor was ranked No. 14 then, and the Sooners had just cracked the Top 25 at No. 23.
It wasn’t like Baylor didn’t have a chance, either. The Bears had a 10-point lead on three different occasions. But Big 12 Sixth Player of the Year Skyler Vann had 22 points, Taylor Robertson dropped five 3-pointers to become the conference’s all-time leader and the Sooners outscored the Bears 31-18 over the final 13 minutes.
You could have chalked that up to COVID recovery. And the great thing about the Big 12 is that there are always rematches.
When the Sooners trekked down to Baylor on Feb. 2, they had an excuse — weather. The Bears agreed to push back the start time as the Sooners had to bus down to Waco when their plane was grounded due to a winter storm. The Bears were in a much better place at that point, well past the COVID pause and recovered from the 0-2 start. Baylor had won five straight, the last loss being the loss to Oklahoma.
But the Sooners won anyway, 78-77. Flush from a last-second win over Texas just a few days ago, forward Liz Scott — for the second straight game — drove for the winning basket.
At that point Baylor was No. 9 and Oklahoma was 18. Smith had 19 points and 12 rebounds. Sarah Andrews had a huge game from outside with 23 points. Two other Bears were in double figures. It was Baylor’s 4-of-18 shooting in the fourth quarter that did the Bears in.
Now, the Sooners have to overcome basketball’s ‘rule of threes.’ It’s hard to beat the same time three times in a season.
And Baylor wants no part of a super sweep.
“For sure, I’m ready,” Bears center Queen Egbo said. “I bet this team is ready. Nobody likes losing so we’re going to go into this game and we all watch a lot of film, for sure.”
“A lot (of film),” Smith said with a chuckle.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.