Oklahoma Basketball: Sooners end arduous stretch with road victory over Baylor

In the Big 12 conference, there can be no off days.  The conference, which boasts five nationally ranked teams and the number one RPI ranking, is arguably the best in the country.  The Oklahoma Sooners were coming off an off day in which they dropped a 66-72 loss to Kansas State on the road.  They were in Waco to face Baylor, which, like the Sooners, was coming off a tough loss to Texas Tech.  Stakes were high.

It was a back and forth battle for much of the first half, in which Baylor mostly led thanks to an egregious shooting effort by Oklahoma.  The Sooners shot just 23.3% (7-for-30) in the first half, and a horrific 1-for-13 from deep.  Thankfully Baylor (36.7% from the field) didn’t do much better, and the Bears halftime lead was a mere 30-24, miniscule considering what it could have been.

Woodard came through late with clutch free throws for the Sooners. (Photo via Soonersports.com)

Woodard came through late with clutch free throws for the Sooners. (Photo via Soonersports.com)

The second half, thankfully, was much more aesthetically pleasing.  Buddy Hield caught fire scoring all 19 of his points in the half, and nailing four threes to spark the Sooner comeback.  Cameron Clark was also instrumental in the surge, going 5-for-9 and scoring 14 points to snap his two game skid.  The Sooners shot a much improved 57.7% from the floor and 46.2% from beyond the arc.  Still, the Baylor offense made adjustments as well, and it was a close battle until the final buzzer.

With around three minutes to go, Oklahoma held a one-point advantage, 58-57.  Jordan Woodard and Clark would score to expand the lead to 63-57 with a minute to go, then began the timeline of a myriad of unusual events.  With 50 seconds to play, Ryan Spangler fouled Taurean Prince, who nailed one of two free throws.

Then, on the inbound, Woodard was ambushed by a pair of Baylor defenders, and turned the ball over.  Luckily, the Sooners were able to get a defensive stop, and Woodard proceeded to nail two free throws, almost nullifying the previous turnover.  However, after Baylor center Isaiah Austin nailed a pair of triples, the Sooner lead was just 65-64 with just under 10 seconds to play.

Woodard was fouled, but made only one of two, as Sooner fans everywhere held their breath.  Lon Kruger used a pair of timeouts to discuss defensive strategy, and the teams took the floor.  Kenny Chery took the ball up-court, and attempted to make a pass, which was deflected by the outstretched arm of Clark.  Baylor did recover the ball, but time had already elapsed and the Sooner victory was already in hand.

The Sooners were somehow able to overcome being outdone in nearly every statistical category.  Points in the paint? Advantage Bears.  Off turnovers?  Advantage Bears.  2nd chance points?  Baylor.  Bench scoring? Baylor again.  The Sooners were outshot, outrebounded and committed one more turnover than Baylor, yet still found a way to win.  Mostly due in part to their extraordinary second half.  The win gives to Sooners another quality win on the road, only further dressing it.  At this rate, Oklahoma will be in contention for a good seed come March.

Next up, the Sooners (14-4, 3-2) will be back in Norman to face TCU (9-7, 0-4).  Tip-off is set for 8 PM CST at the Lloyd Noble Center on Wednesday, Jan. 22.

Want more Sooner hoops?  Follow me on Twitter @ChandlerVessels

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