After playing their best offensive game of the season and having late chances to win, Baylor (12-10, 2-7) fell to Oklahoma 98-96. Baylor returns to the court on Saturday against Iowa State.
The Bears gave Oklahoma a new look early. Jake Lindsey started in place of King McClure, and the Bears hard hedged all ball screens. Baylor built an early lead, but the Sooner’s offense was incredible. Trae Young, likely the best player in the country, was amazing. He drilled a three with Tyson Jolly’s hand in his face. He made more shots and drew fouls. Maybe some went Oklahoma’s way. But when you’re the best player in the country, you get a few close calls, and sadly, he played a big part (and a bad block/charge call did as well) in Manu Lecomte having three first half fouls.
Baylor had an exceptional first half on offense. The Bears scored 1.15 points per possession, which is well above their Big 12 average of .99 points per possession. Nuni Omot hit threes and was aggressive, finishing the half 3-of-3 from deep for 12 points. Lecomte looked good on offense too, finishing the half with 12 points. Against a normal offense, the Bear’s first half performance would have given them a nice lead.
After coming out of the half down six, Baylor came out on a 5-0 run. But Young answered. The Bears decided to switch all ball screens. Young pulled Jo Lual-Acuil out and got his hand down for a second. He drained a deep three. It’s easy to say applaud greatness, but watching it is incredibly frustrating. There’s just nothing to do against him when he’s rolling.
Oklahoma went on a 7-2 run and built an eight point lead. Lecomte made a tough jumper and Omot got to the line. The Bears kept fighting. Lecomte drilled a long 3-point shot to tie the game at 76. But when the Bears scored, Young answered. He drew a foul on Vital and made all three free throws. He drew another one on the next possession and made both of those shots.
Baylor kept answering. Lecomte made a layup and Omot made a three. Young answered. Omot and Lecomte answered. Tonight was like watching two fighters battle round-for-round.
The game was tied entering the final timeout. King McClure went to the line and made one shot. Young missed a floater, and Omot made a three. The man was 6-of-6 following that make. Fitting that on the State of the Union night Nuni Omot officially became President.
McClure drilled a three, and Oklahoma answered. The Bears led by one point with 54 seconds left and had the ball. Sadly, Jo Lual-Acuil air-balled a three and, if you can’t already guess, Young went down and drew a foul. He made both shots.
Lindsey was fouled on the perimeter with 4.7 seconds left. He went to the line and missed the front end of the 1-and-1. The Sooners hit one free throw, and McClure missed a rough 3-point attempt.
The Bears were very good tonight. Lecomte scored 29 points and was superb from deep. Omot looked like the star we’d hoped for at the end of non-conference finishing with 23 points on nine shots.
Oklahoma made too many threes and too many free throws. The Sooners finished 12-of-22 from beyond the arc and 26-of-32 from the line. That the Bears made it close was incredible, but with some early losses, they really needed to win this game. And they had chances. They couldn’t capitalize.
Baylor either can’t make shots or find a way to get their opponents to miss. Kansas State went 8-of-17 against Baylor, then they started 2-of-14 against Kansas. Florida started 7-of-8 from three against Baylor, then went 9-of-26 against Georgia. The Bears have been unlucky this season. But they made their own bad luck by going 1-of-12 from deep against TCU, 4-of-20 against Kansas and losing to a bad Iowa State team.
Sometimes it’s not your year. Baylor started 2-8 in Big 12 play in 2014, then the Bears won 10 of their next 11 games before making the Sweet 16. Life can change fast. Hopefully it will for the Bears.