The Sooners put a beatdown on the Baylor Bears Saturday afternoon inside Lloyd Noble Center, wiping them much worse than the 90-76 final score might indicate.
Their onslaught included limiting the Bears to just 25.8 percent field goal shooting in the first half, while managing nearly 45 percent themselves.
It started behind sharpshooting guard Steven Pledger, who has heated up as of late after slumping some earlier in the season.
Pledger poured in 17 first half points to help OU leap out to a 47-21 lead at intermission.
”Just getting to my spots, hitting shots,” Pledger said. “I kept my shoulders square to the basket, and I was just hitting everything.”
The Sooners, though they slowed down some in the second half, coasted to victory from there.
They attacked relentlessly at the offensive end and forced Baylor into fouling 32 times, a huge reason why they shot 39 free throws and converted a healthy 45 of those.
”The margin was such that you gotta make a decision at some point to foul or let a team run 25 seconds each time,” said OU head coach Lon Kruger. “And if you let them run 25 seconds, then eventually the clock’s gonna run out without any chance of winning. So, I think it was just percentages, foul with the hope that we’d miss four or five in a row and guys did a good job to avoid that.”
In fact, because of that there were 57 total fouls, including 25 by the Sooners as well, that affected the flow of the game.
”You just gotta adjust to it,” said OU forward Romero Osby. “I mean, that’s the only thing you can say. Just try to adjust to it and adjust to the way the referees are calling and try to adjust the way you play defense and make sure you’re not really being overly aggressive on the offensive end.”
For most of the way, outside of 15 free throw makes in large part courtesy of 18 second half Sooner fouls, what Baylor got it had to work for.
To illustrate, Baylor finished 9-of-31 (29 percent) from behind the arc—it shot way poorer than that until late—and 37.1 percent overall while OU eventually netted 44.9 percent from the field.
Although Pledger finished with 17 points, he battled foul trouble in the second half and it was point guard Sam Grooms who led the way for OU with 23 points.
Much of that came on 15 free throw makes in 17 attempts, but he also hit a couple key triples.
”Just been in the gym working hard just about every day trying to build confidence in myself first,” Grooms said. “And then my teammates, Ro[mero] says it every single day, if I don’t shoot the shot I shoot in practice in the game, how are people gonna actually respect me?
”He said some things that motivated me, and then I’m just a senior. You know, I want to win right now, so if that’s gonna help the team, then I’m just gonna do whatever it takes at this point in time.”
Osby and guard Je’lon Hornbeak—the only Sooner to foul out in this hack affair—joined them in double figures with 17 and 13, respectively.
Baylor point guard Pierre Jackson led all scorers with 28 points, while center Isaiah Austin added 15 and guard Brady Heslip managed 11, but that wasn’t nearly enough.
The Sooners led it wire-to-wire, never trailing in the contest and getting up by as much as 26—the margin it led at half—thanks to a 16-0 run late in the first.
This victory most likely solidified a position in the NCAA Tournament or put the Sooners (18-8, 9-5 Big 12) just on the cusp of lock status.
”It was a good win for our guys,” Kruger said. “These guys played great and we need that to continue.”
They’ll try to solidify that when they head to Austin, Texas for a rematch with the Texas Longhorns at 8 p.m. Wednesday inside the Erwin Center.
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