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#1 Baylor Holds of Sooner Upset Bid 61-57

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Another brilliant outing from Freddie Gillespie helps offset an off night from Jared Butler

NCAA Basketball: Oklahoma at Baylor Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

The Baylor Bears held on to beat the Oklahoma Sooners 61-57 in Waco. Baylor is now on a 15 game win streak and its first 6 game win streak in Big XII play.

Three Bears scored in double-digits, but none were more important than Freddie Gillespie’s, who also finished with 15 rebounds and a block. Davion Mitchell and MaCio Teague scored 13 and 16 points respectively, with all 13 of Mitchell’s points coming in the first half.

Baylor lead by 5 points at the one minute mark when a missed layup led to a trailer three by undefended Brady Manek (21 points, 10 rebounds). Butler turned the ball over trying to drive to the basket on Doolittle on a possession where Baylor needed points. Fortunately for the Bears, Reaves missed the corner three in transition and Bandoo recovered the rebound. He made both foul shots to make it a 4 point lead and the final score.

Gillespie was a big piece for Baylor down the stretch. His defense forced several turnovers, and he was in position to clean up missed shots and finish when given the ball near the rim, including a big dunk with 1:30 remaining off the pocket pass from Bandoo.

The Baylor offense came in fits and starts all night. All second half the half court offense struggled. Oklahoma switched a number of actions at the top of the key and played tight perimeter defense. Baylor’s guards had little room to drive toward the rim, which severely hampered the Bear’s ability to generate open looks. They only shot 32% from the floor in the second half and an abysmal 1-9 from three.

Once again, Scott Drew’s team had to rely on its defense to hold onto victory. Oklahoma had equal difficulty scoring for most of the second half. Their points came in 5 and 6 point bursts several minutes apart. The Sooners shot 34% from the floor in the second half but 5-15 beyond the line. Those threes shrank the lead and tightened up the game.

Offensive rebounding was a big part of the game for both teams. Baylor finished with 18 offensive rebounds to OU’s 12. Those boards led to 14 Baylor second chance points and 12 for Oklahoma. In a game hurting for makes, easy baskets following the rebound were essential.

Jared Butler (4 pts, 4 rebs, 1 ast, 2 to) had perhaps his worst offensive game of the season. He was 2-13 and an icy 0-6 from three. It’s good news for Baylor that they can win a game in which their best player shoots so badly. Devonte Bandoo (5 pts, 8 rebs, 5 asts) made up for some of that. He didn’t score much, but he grabbed rebounds and made a few key assists, including a that big dunk to Gillespie late in the game.

In the first half, Mitchell and Teague revved up the offense by shooting a combined 5-10 from three and 8-16 from the floor. Mitchell, in particular, got the juice going with some pull-up jumpers. Baylor was also highly effective attacking the offensive glass. The Bears corralled 12 offensive rebounds, including 3 each for Gillespie and Vital.

The game was close for the first 13 minutes of the half with both teams scoring north of 1 point per possession. In the final 7 minutes Baylor’s defense shut Oklahoma down, holding them to 5 points and pushing their efficiency down to .82 PPP. The defensive intensity helped the Bears stretch their lead from 2 to 11 at the break.

Baylor will continue to get everyone’s best shot as the No. 1 ranked team in the country. It’d be nice if opponents didn’t shoot above their average on threes, but the Bears’ two-point defense has managed to make up the difference so far.

Baylor carries their 15 game win streak into Gainesville, Florida Saturday to face the Florida Gators in the Big XII — SEC challenge. KenPom projects Baylor as a 1 point victor, and even Big XII stan Fran Fraschilla picked Florida to upset the Bears. If Baylor can manage to win Saturday, they’ll face what should be the softest stretch of their league schedule until a big showdown against West Virginia on February 15th. Baylor should stay at or near the top of the rankings for a good long while.