Sooners Look to Rebound Against No. 6 Baylor

OU forward Andrew Fitzgerald

NORMAN, Okla. — The Sooners dropped a heartbreaker the other night and quickly have to regroup for their contest Tuesday night against No. 6 Baylor, and in the Big 12 many times that's just the way it is.

Lose a tough one, like OU's 81-75 overtime setback to Texas A&M, and be forced pull things together for a brutal following battle.

A battle against a team that was undefeated heading into last week before dropping a pair of decisions to Kansas and Missouri.

It's a challenge the Sooners are more than ready to accept.

After all, they've played the underdog role the entire season and will be a big one again vs. the 17-2 Bears.

"I think if you go back to the Kansas State game, nobody expected us to win that game," said point guard Sam Grooms. "And just in general, this whole year, nobody expected us to win. But I've said it since I first got here, it's not a rebuilding year. We want to win right now and do what we have to do. And if it's us 15 guys that believe in each other and that's all we have, then that's what we'll take.

"You know, we'll love to have people coming along on the bandwagon and helping us along, but at this point in time, if this is us, this is us. We gotta go against the world."

But as athletes must continually do, they must have a short memory and erase a tough defeat out of their minds.

Or use it as a learning experience and for motivation.

"Exactly, that's what we have to make of it because it was a really tough loss," said head coach Lon Kruger. "It was a really tough loss, as hard as we've had all year. When you get a game on the road like that in the Big 12, guys know how important it is to finish those. We didn't do it, so we can't change the outcome. We have to learn from it. It's something this club has to keep doing, keep growing and learning and making progress."

Grooms said the loss could actually help them for a huge game inside Lloyd Noble Center Tuesday.

Instead of dwelling on all the negatives, including not finishing the game out after leading the final 17 minutes of regulation, not defending down the stretch and falling apart in overtime, Grooms focused on the positives they can pull.

"I think it gave us a big mental push," Grooms said. "You know, we competed. We gave everything we had. We just had some mishaps and a couple of plays cost us a big game, and that's what it comes down to. You got to play every possession, whether that's overtime or whether that's in the first 40 [minutes]. You just got to play every possession, man. That's what it came down to."

So, incorporate the positives, learn from the negatives and don't dwell on them, and this could be an upset waiting to happen.

Forward Andrew Fitzgerald admitted the psyche of the team took a hit, though, after that loss.

"Right now, you know, our confidence got a little bit low, but I think we're building it back up for another [game], through our last two practices," Fitzgerald said. "We're out there trying to get everything back together and get ready for another Big 12 game, really. That's it."

What this game, in particular, will feature is a Baylor frontcourt of forwards Perry Jones III, Quincy Acy and Quincy Miller that bangs out 19.1 boards per game against a Sooner club which ranks 14th nationally in offensive rebounds per game and 23rd overall in total rebounds.

That means a tall task for Fitzgerald and fellow starting forward Romero Osby.

"Very talented kid," Fitzgerald said of Acy, one part of Baylor's three headed monster. "You know, he dunks everything around the rim. He'll tear the whole rim off. He's very good, a very good athletic and, you know, me and Ro [Romero Osby] are looking forward to the challenge. We're looking forward to taking it to him and we're looking forward to being in a battle, tough play, just like A&M. So, we're gonna have fun tomorrow night."

The Bears' offensive production is just about as balanced as it gets.

All five starters score in double figures, with Jones III leading the way at 13.7 points per contest.

Miller and Acy add 12.9 and 12.7 points per game, respectively, while guards Pierre Jackson and Brady Heslip provide 12.6 and 10.1 points per contest each.

"They're an outstanding team, very talented, very long, rangy, can rebound the ball well, spread it out defensively, do a good job there," Kruger said. "And a lot of guys can score, again, reason for being a top five team in the country."

OU must be crisp with the basketball and take care of it, all the while making the most of its opportunities.

Do that, and they'll have a chance.

Otherwise, it could be a long night.

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OU-Baylor Hoops Preview Breakdown

Overview:

The Sooners (12-6, 2-4 Big 12) welcome one of the nation's best teams into Lloyd Noble Center when the Baylor Bears (17-2, 4-2 Big 12) come into town Tuesday. OU fell in that tough game the other night against Texas A&M after winning two straight, while Baylor is losers of consecutive contests after winning their first 17. Both teams will look to climb up the conference ladder, as OU is locked in a four-way tie for sixth, while Baylor is tied for third with Iowa State.

Sooner Notes:

--OU leads the all-time series 37-8, with an 18-3 record in Norman. The Sooners have won 17 of the last 18 at home.

--They are +15.1 in average scoring margin at Lloyd Noble Center this year.

--OU ranks 14th nationally in offensive rebounds per game at 14.7.

--After dominating rebounding in the non-conference, it has been out-boarded in four of its six conference games by a -5.5 average margin.

--It is an excellent 76.9 percent from the foul line, good for second in the conference.

Looking at the Bears:

--They were ranked third in the country before their two setbacks and have fallen three spots.

--Baylor ranks second in the Big 12 with its 78.2 points per game.

--Forward Perry Jones III leads the club with his 13.7 points per contest.

--Forward Quincy Miller adds 12.9 to rank first among all Big 12 freshmen.

--Head coach Scott Drew is in his ninth year as the Baylor head coach, with a 144-118 record there.

Projected Starters:

OU:

F Andrew Fitzgerald (6-8, 247, Jr., 13.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg)

F Romero Osby (6-8, 232, Jr., 11.9 ppg, 8.1 rpg)

G Sam Grooms (6-1, 203, Jr., 6.5 ppg, 5.4 apg)

G Steven Pledger (6-2, 205, Jr., 17.2 ppg, 4.0 rpg)

G Carl Blair (6-2, 205, Jr., 4.2 ppg, 2.8 apg)

Baylor:

F Perry Jones III (6-11, 235, So., 13.7 ppg, 7.2 rpg)

F Quincy Acy (6-7, 235, Sr., 12.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg)

F Quincy Miller (6-9, 210, Fr., 12.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg)

G Brady Heslip (6-2, 180, So., 10.1 ppg, 1.4 apg)

G Pierre Jackson (5-10, 180, Jr., 12.6 ppg, 5.9 apg)

Sooners Illustrated's Take:

Expect OU to come out energized because they fell in such a tough game the other night. But don't look for them to come out on top. If they do, it could be the start of OU playing much better the rest of the conference season. However, that just doesn't figure to happen, and OU will fall to 2-5 in Big 12 play. (Big 12 Prediction Record: 3-3)

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