The Oklahoma Sooners desperately need a road victory heading into their contest with Baylor, having dropped two straight in opposing arenas. Fortunately, they got just that, defeating the Bears in Waco 74-71 to improve to 14-5 (5-2) Wednesday evening. Though the final score is deceiving, the majority of the game it wasn’t even that close.
Oklahoma opened on an Amath M’Baye basket assisted by Steven Pledger, two guys who would be instrumental to the Sooner victory tonight. Both would finish with 20 points, as M’Baye would add seven rebounds and Pledger five assists. For both, it marked one of their better performances of the season.
Romero Osby also added 11 points and eight rebounds to lead the Sooners in that category, and Buddy Hield made his presence felt in a plethora of ways with nine points, five rebounds and three assists. The freshmen also came up with a couple of clutch shots when his team needed them.
On the opposite side the Sooner defense did a solid job to stymie the Big 12’s leading scorer, Pierre Jackson. Jackson did score 22 points, but inefficiently, going 8-21 from the field and 3-12 from the three point line. It was obvious that the length and quickness of the Sooner guards flustered him.
The Sooners did lose the rebounding battle, giving up 21 rebounds—to one player. 7-foot-1 freshman Isaiah Austin attacked the boards with tenacity, and came up with 12 on the offensive end, as the Bears held an eye-popping 24-6 advantage in second chance points. However,the rebounding totals can be looked at as a foreshadowing of the shooting percentages for both teams tonight. Oklahoma (52.7%) shot the ball exceptionally well tonight and thus had fewer opportunities for offensive boards. Their adversary however shot just 37.3%, and had many more second chances.
After that initial M’Baye bucket, Baylor would nail two successive field goals to take an early lead, but it would be short-lived. M’Baye then hit another jumper, came up with a steal on defense, and nailed a three on the ensuing possession. That sequence gave the Sooners a 7-4 lead, which, despite several close calls, they would not relinquish for the remainder of the game.
The two teams traded baskets for a while, before Osby and Pledger joined forces to spark a 15-4 Sooner run near the end of the half, to push their advantage to 36-22. The half ended appropriately with a jumper from Pledger, and the Sooners took a double digit lead into the break, 38-26.
The Sooners came out of the second half with the same energy, and pushed their lead to as much as 16. For the first nine minutes, they controlled the game. Then, the pressure of being on the road hit the young, inexperienced squad. Baylor slowly began to chip away at the Sooner lead, until, with 1:37 remaining, it was down to one. Hield emerged as hero though, coolly knocking down a big time shot to extend the lead to three.
The Bears were relentless in their comeback efforts however, again cutting the deficit to one, with time diminishing. Only eight seconds remained as Jackson nailed two free throws to make it a 72-71 game. After that, the Bears were forced to foul, and Pledger went to the line and knocked down his 19th and 20th points of the game extending the lead back to three. On the next Baylor possession the Bears would have not one, but two chances to tie, but the Sooner defense would hold true, and also catch a major break. First Jackson would miss a three, but Austin would get the rebound, pass it out to Brady Heslip, one of the nation’s deadliest shooters, for one a last second attempt from deep. Heslip missed, a rare occurrence, as the Sooners caught a break and held on for the win.
Next up Oklahoma will be back at home Saturday to take on the Kansas State Wildcats. The Sooners will look to avenge an earlier loss this season to the Wildcats, coach Lon Kruger’s alma mater. Tip-off is set for 5 PM CST at the Lloyd Noble Center.
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