Tramel: Baylor defense puts headlock on OU basketball in Bears' 76-61 win vs. Sooners
Alondes Williams made a fast-break layup after 2:42 of game clock had ticked off. OU was off zero on the scoreboard, after four fruitless possessions.
With 13:28 left in the first half, Victor Iwuakor made a short shot for the Sooners. Five possessions had come without a subsequent OU point.
In their first 10 possessions in Waco, the Sooners scored just once and trailed second-ranked Baylor 16-2.
Welcome to what appears to be the real story of Big 12 basketball. In an early season in which parity and depth seemed to be the calling cards of the conference, the Bears somehow were overlooked.
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Overlook Baylor no longer. Scott Drew’s Bears seem to be the class of the league. Baylor is 3-0 in the league after its first Big 12 home game, a 76-61 win over OU, and the Bears are 10-0 overall. They are ranked second in the polls and they play ferocious defense that knocks even quality teams off its moorings.
Jared Butler, Macio Teague and Davion Mitchell harassing opponents on the perimeter. Mark Vital and Flo Thamba controlling the paint. Baylor has a serious defensive lineup.
The Sooners are a quality offensive team. Lon Kruger squads almost always are. This OU team has shooting and depth and experience. And the Sooners were hard-pressed to find a decent shot Wednesday night.
“They’ve got 5 guys that can guard the ball,” Kruger said. “Even their big guys slide their feet, five good athletes on the floor pretty much all the time.
“They do a good job. It’s hard to get downhill against ‘em. The last couple of years, they’ve been one of the best defensive teams in the country.”
Before that Iwuakor basket, the Sooners trailed 16-2, had committed two turnovers and made just one of its 11 shots. Improvement came only marginally.
Baylor ended the first half on a 14-2 run in which the Sooners scored on just one of their final seven possessions. They missed six shots and committed a turnover during that span.
The only OU points came on two Williams foul shots. He arrived at the line via a non-shooting foul, with the Sooners in the bonus.
During that drought, both Austin Reaves and Trey Phipps air-balled 3-pointers. Both are accomplished shooters; Phipps in particular has looked like the kind of dead-eye who could make long balls with his eyes closed. But Baylor, with its frenetic pressure on both ballhandlers and shooters, makes even good players appear to be shooting like they’re trying to flee a burning house.
All told, five Sooners missed 3-point shots by missing the rim entirely. Reaves, Phipps, Elijah Harkless, Umoja Gibson and Brady Manek.
Poor Phipps, a freshman from Tulsa Washington, never had seen anything like this before. Harkless, a transfer, had to be thinking that Cal State-Northridge wasn’t such a bad place after all. And Gibson missed all seven of his shots, including four 3-pointers, one game after torching West Virginia for 29 points. Bob Huggins’ Mountaineers are known for their defense, but Baylor was a different animal.
Only once did OU score on more than two straight possessions. Midway through the second half, Reaves hit a contested 11-foot jumper, Williams produced a three-point play off a drive and Manek made a layup off a nifty Reaves pass. Seemed like the Sooners of old.
That cut OU’s deficit to 52-43, and you wondered how in the heck the Sooners could be so close. Kruger is a heck of a coach and his players are competitive. That’s how.
But there would be no comeback. OU went scoreless on its next four possessions, missing five straight shots and committing a turnover on Reaves’ offensive foul, and Baylor’s lead was 62-43.
Soon enough, it was over. The Sooners shot 36.1 percent from the field. They made just four of 24 3-point shots, most of the launches a few feet behind the arc, just trying to find breathing room.
And OU left Waco having helped reveal a message to Middle America. In this conference sporting three of the top six teams, and four of the top 14, and five of the top 18, as determined by the Associated Press poll, there is clarity on which team stands above.