The No. 21 Baylor Bears beat the Oklahoma Sooners, 62-60, at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla., on Saturday. Here are three thoughts on this Big 12 Conference game.
Oklahoma (12-7, 2-5 in Big 12) lost both of its games this week, as they were coming off a Bedlam loss to Oklahoma State in Stillwater.
Baylor (14-5, 4-3) has now won four straight Big 12 games and avoided a loss to an unranked team, which would have been their first of the season.
How Baylor Won
The Bears struggled just about the entire game with consistent offense, but they found just enough when they needed it. Oklahoma took the lead on a C.J. Noland alley-oop basket with 1:29 left. It just happened to be Noland’s only basket of the game.
With OU up 59-58, the Bears took a timeout and set up a play and eventually got the ball to forward Jalen Bridges, who drained his third 3-pointer of the game to put up the Bears up 61-58. Bridges finished with 11 points. Oklahoma attempted to close the gap or tie it but failed to convert. The Bears brought it down to the other end and Adam Flagler — who finished with a team-high 16 points — hit his own 3-pointer with 20 seconds left to give the Bears a 62-58 lead.
It was a gut-it-out game for the Bears, who shot just 36.2 percent for the game and made just one 3-pointer in the first half. Baylor’s freshman star, Keyonte George, only managed 11 points as the Sooners made him a focus of attention. The Bears managed to outrebound the Sooners, 39-30, and were plus-six in points off turnovers (15 to 9).
It wasn’t a pretty game for the Bears. In fact, OU’s Tanner Groves said after the game they felt good about holding Baylor’s high-powered offense to 62 points. But after starting Big 12 play 0-3, Baylor will take its fourth straight win any way it can get it.
How Oklahoma Lost
By the slimmest of margins. The Sooners got great games from forward Tanner Groves (16 points, nine rebounds, two blocked shots) and from forward Jalen Hill (17 points, nine rebounds). Guard Grant Sherfield had a bit of an off-game, scoring just eight points. But eight different Sooners scored and they shot 45 percent for the game.
What didn’t help? That rebounding margin for one. Baylor’s 30-12 edge in second-chance points didn’t help either. Neither did Baylor’s 17-9 edge on the offensive glass. Plus, the free-throw disparity. The Sooners were 3-for-4 from the free throw line while Baylor was 13-for-17. You can draw your own conclusions about that, but the disparity helped the cold-shooting Bears stay in the game.
After Baylor grabbed the four-point lead, Noland got a shot to cut it to one but missed a 3-pointer. Hill grabbed a rebound for the put-back and OU had a chance to at least defend a Baylor inbounds pass. The next-to-last inbounds pass needed a review because it was really close as to whether OU or Baylor tipped it out. But, ultimately the Bears got the ball and the win.
The loss hurts Oklahoma, which has been hanging on in Bracketology for two weeks as a bubble team. This is the kind of loss that could cause their bubble to burst come the next full update on Tuesday.
Live and Die by the Three
Baylor isn’t generating much offense in the paint. Bridges is a forward, but he’s not an interior kind of forward, at least offensively (he had eight rebounds on Saturday). Flo Thamba is a solid rebounder but has not become the type of offensive player the Bears needed. Kyle Lohner? Well, I’m still not entirely sure where he fits.
So Baylor’s hopes of a deep NCAA Tournament run will depend on its 3-point shooting. The Bears were 7-of-20 on Saturday, but as noted they made just one 3-pointer in the first half. Fortunately, between Bridges, Flagler, George and LJ Cryer the Bears have four solid shooters from outside. That doesn’t include Dale Bonner, who is more relied upon as a backup who can run the offense when Flagler needs a break.
In the end, it was Bridges and Flagler who finally did Oklahoma in. But the game underscored just how important it will be for the quartet to be firing come mid-March.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard