Jared Butler lead the Bears with 22 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals. He had a poor shooting night (8-19 FG) but found his three-point stroke in the second half when Oklahoma was staging a comeback. He finished 5-12 from deep with some cold blooded pull-ups and tough and-1 drives. His defense and poise helped keep Baylor steady when OU brought the game within 1 point in the second half.
Baylor remained steady all game. The game came in ebbs and flows, but the difference was Baylor’s ability to extend runs with their defense. Oklahoma had several 7 and 9 point runs, but they only lasted 3 or 4 minutes. Baylor, meanwhile, would have 13-2, 17-2 runs over 6 and 7 minute stretches. The Sooners had few answers for Baylor’s chokehold, failing to find offense to extend runs and grab real control of the game.
Butler and Devonte Bandoo, who started in place of still injured MaCio Teague, drilled big threes to push the game to double-digits down the stretch and put the game out of reach on a night when Baylor’s offense struggled from deep for most of the night. Until Butler got hot, the Bears were finding far more success around the rim. Surprisingly, most of the inside scoring came on the initial shot attempt, not Baylor’s customary offensive rebounding.
AlondeS Williams and Kristian Doolittle fought back in the second half. Williams helped Doolittle get a layup after blowing by Matthew Mayer, and both managed to hit free throws that seemed like they might move momentum in OU’s favor. Free throws were especially vital for Doolittle, who had only 3 points in the first half but finished with 18 after going 5-14 from the floor and 7-9 from the line.
Baylor spent many more minutes tonight with two bigs on the floor than earlier this season, possibly a sign of growing confidence in Tristan Clark (8 pts, 4 rebs, 4-6 FG). The spacing with Clark and Freddie Gillespie (6 pts, 10 rebs) was tough in the paint. Perhaps this is preparation for playing against teams bigger than Oklahoma (not exactly a beefy interior squad), but it looked clogged on offense even as it held serve on defense.
The first half was a game of runs after both teams settled into the first few minutes of the game. After falling down 10-5 early, Baylor sprinted off on a 17-2 run over a near 7 minute stretch, powered by sound switching defense. Oklahoma could not find an open shot for the entire run, while Baylor got things going toward the rim with drives and dishes from Butler and Vital. Even Clark got in on the action, passing out of a quick double on the left block to the wide open Mayer in the corner.
Oklahoma responded with a 9-0 run of their own over three minutes. Manek found his groove scoring on a goaltend by Gillespie, then a couple of jumpers. He contributed 7 of Oklahoma’s 9 points in the run. Doolittle, meanwhile, had only 3 points in the first half.
Baylor managed a bucket before the close of the half to stretch the score to 30-24 at the break.
Baylor began the game 3-14 from deep, including 1-5 from Butler. Despite the outside offense struggling, the Bears found success inside the arc. They were 10-17 on 2-point shots and 9-15 (60%) in the paint. The Bears aren’t known as a particularly strong inside scoring team, but when the guards (and Vital) can be aggressive going towards the rim, it unlocks so much of their offense
Scott Drew will need Teague back on Saturday when the Kansas Jayhawks come to Waco to stop Baylor’s record-breaking streak. When these teams met in Lawrence, Baylor was helped by a leg injury to Devon Dotson, who now appears very healthy. KU essentially still only has two guys you need to stop (Dotson and Azubuike), and Baylor has the tools to bother both of them. If Baylor can find its three-point shot, Baylor will extend its record holding streak and sweep Kansas for the first time in program history.