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Baylor’s Defense Turns Oklahoma Over in 65-51 Win

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Someone check Matthew Mayer’s knee for pieces of Grove’s dignity

NCAA Basketball: Baylor at Oklahoma Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Sixteen steals equaled the highest tally the Bears have had against a Power 5 team this season as Baylor ran away from Oklahoma 65-51.

The Baylor Bears (17-2, 5-2) have a chance to be tied with Texas Tech and Kansas at the top of the Big XII, if Kansas State doesn’t blow a 17-point second half lead. That lead was down to 10 at the time of publication.

The Oklahoma Sooners (12-7, 2-5) had a season high 25 turnovers and are on a 4-game losing streak.

Four Baylor players scored in double-digits, and the team had 35 points off of turnovers. That is the most points off of turnovers in a Big XII game in 12 years, per the broadcast.

Kendall Brown had his best game in conference play, scoring 10 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, and a pair of steals. His pair of free throws with 4 minutes remaining stretched the lead back to 56-44.

Adam Flagler lead the team with 16 points. LJ Cryer scored 14, and Matthew Mayer added 12.

A 15-1 run by OU in the middle of the second half tightened up the game down the stretch after Baylor had a 14-point lead with 12:29 left in the game.

Akinjo reinjured his tailbone on a driving layup with 6:37 remaining, his first basket of the game. He would not reenter, but that score slowed the bleeding for Baylor.

The following possession, a leaping Mayer impacted the side of Tanner Groves’ face. Furious at the no-call, Groves was given a technical foul that sent Cryer to the line, where his two makes stretched the lead back to 49-42. Despite the replay review showing Mayer’s knee clearly hitting Groves’ head, no flagrant was called. Two more Cryer free throws pushed the lead to 9 after the review.

A jumper by Flagler topped a 13-2 Baylor run that answered Oklahoma’s attempted comeback. put the game out of reach at 58-44 with just three minutes left.

Flagler’s three to make it 61-46 was the dagger with 2:14 to play. Baylor was 5 for 6 to close out the game.

Groves (11 pts, 5 rebs) didn’t score until 14:46 in the second half thanks to a goal tend on Tchamwa-Tchatchoua. He followed that with a quick three on the next possession. His scoring came too little, too late, though. Flo Thamba and Jonathan Tchamwa-Tchatchoua did an excellent job defending the skilled Sooner big, whose energy was sapped following the technical foul.

Thamba had a great game today. His 7 points and 10 rebounds had a big impact on the game, but Thamba’s defense was the biggest contribution. Not only did he shut down Groves, but he switched out on guards and patrolled the paint excellently. He finished with 1 block and 2 steals.

First Half

Baylor started the game on a 10-0 run in the first five minutes, allowing only 2 shot attempts from the Sooners in that stretch. The defense was tenacious. Baylor forced a number of live ball turnovers and converted them on the other end.

Once Oklahoma was able to settle in and stop turning the ball over, however, they went on their own run, outscoring Baylor 17-5 in the following 9 minutes of play.

The Bears missed some open looks in that run, but they turned the ball over 4 times in the Oklahoma run and took a number of contested shots.

By the 6-minute mark, Baylor was shooting just 26% from the floor, compared to 57% from the Sooners.

To close out the half, Baylor went on an 8-0 run to regain the lead. Brown hit Mayer with a sweet dime off a baseline dive to bring the game back to 1 possession, then layups off back-to-back possessions from Mayer and Cryer put the Bears back on top.

Akinjo was scoreless in his first half back from injury.

Baylor had an enormous 14-6 turnover advantage and took 15 more shot attempts than the Sooners. That volume helped make up for Baylor’s 32% shooting, while OU shot 47% in the first half.

Cryer led Baylor with 8 points, and six different Bears scored at least one basket. Brown led the team with 3 assists.

Takeaways

This was another great road win this week that Baylor needed to make up for the 2 home losses last week. Baylor is now 7-1 against Quad 1 competition, far and away the best of any team in the country.

Jeremy Sochan was out for a third straight game, and Akinjo was clearly not fulled back, even before he reaggravated his injury in the second half. He couldn’t find his shot, going just 1-6, but he did set up a pair of threes and a nice Thamba dunk. The offense clearly welcomed him back, even if he wasn’t as effective as he normally is.

Brown is still a play who lives in the flow of the game, but he was more intentional about dribbling the ball into the paint today, and it really opened things up offensively. It remains to be seen if he will grow enough into a guy who can get his own basket, but his contributions as a secondary creator unlock a lot for a team missing its floor general.

Kansas State, who is surging following a tough start to conference play, visits Waco on Tuesday.

Baylor is finding its footing even without two key pieces. Hopefully Akinjo’s injury is not too serious, and it now seems likely that Sochan, a game-time decision today, has a good shot of playing against the Wildcats. Even if both of those guys sit out another game, it’s starting to feel like Baylor understands just how it has to play to win these tough conference games.