OU basketball: Great crowd at Lloyd Noble Center, but Sooners fall to No. 1 Baylor
NORMAN – Lloyd Noble Center was more packed than usual, and the OU students arrived early and often. Before the game, we debated whether the fans would rush the court if the Sooners pulled the upset.
About three minutes into the game, the question was answered. Absolutely they would.
Kristian Doolittle and Jamal Bieniemy nailed back-to-back 3-pointers, celebrating with upraised arms, and the masses roared. OU had a small lead on top-ranked Baylor and, more importantly, a big and lively crowd ready to wake up the echoes.
Five times from 1987 through 1995, a No. 1 team had invaded Lloyd Noble Center, only to be sent home with a defeat. The early flurry made everyone think an upset was possible. Heck, the hero of the first of those five topplings, Darryl Kennedy against Nevada-Las Vegas in 1987, was in the house.
And possible it was. It just didn’t happen.
The Bears won 65-54 in a game that reminded us all that Lloyd Noble still can rock but that Baylor is atop the new Big 12 order.
In the end, the Bears found some easy baskets; OU never did.
Give the Bears credit. Baylor played without its second-leading scorer, the injured MaCio Teague, and still won with ease. The Bears are 24-1 and have won a Big 12-record 23 straight.
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This is a legitimate No. 1 team. These Bears aren’t the caliber of Jerry Tarkanian’s 1987 UNLV team or the 1989 Arizona Wildcats or the No. 1 Kansas teams that fell in Lloyd Noble in the ‘90s. But they don’t have to be. No other college team is, either.
Baylor’s defense was tremendous.
On a night when the Sooners needed stars Doolittle and Brady Manek to shine, Baylor kept them mostly under wraps. Doolittle scored 18 points but made just five of 14 shots. Manek scored 10 points but made just one of six 3-pointers.
“The last 10 games, he’s been on a tear,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said of Manek, who in the previous 11 games had averaged 17 points and shot 46.2 percent from 3-point range. “We tried to make it as tough on him as we could.”
On a night when OU needed Austin Reaves or De’Vion Harmon or Bieniemy to produce a breakout game, they combined to score 13 points and make just five of 18 shots.
Only Alondes Williams, with 11 points in 19 minutes, produced the way Lon Kruger needed.
The tone was set early. OU scored eight points in the first 3:05 of the game. Then OU scored seven points the next 13 minutes. OU made three of its first four shots, then made three of its next 18 shots.
The Sooners at least made things interesting, considering they played uphill those final 35 minutes.
A 13-point deficit was trimmed to four late in the first half.
An eight-point deficit was trimmed to one midway through the second half, and Doolittle had a 3-point shot that would have given the Sooners the lead and sent the crowd into a frenzy.
“It’s easy to say what-if,” Doolittle said. “Ideally, take the lead, we never give it back. You never know. We missed the opportunity.
“They’re switching (on defense) … the majority of the night, denying me the opportunity to get the ball anywhere near the goal. They forced a lot of tough shots tonight.”
A 12-point deficit was trimmed to seven with little more than four minutes left and Williams had the ball in the open court. But Williams was called for an offensive foul, and the Sooners were cooked.
Soon enough, the crowd went from spirited to deflated, flooding not the court, but the parking lot, long before the final buzzer.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at oklahoman.com/berrytramel.