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March 13, 2014

Sooners make valiant comeback bid, but fall short

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Sooners pushed the ball up the floor like they do when they're playing at their best with fewer than three minutes left to play. Problem is, they'd looked far from their best until that moment.

They swung the ball around to sophomore Buddy Hield. He set his feet and hit a trey to cut Baylor's lead to 69-64 with 2:32 left to play. That gave the Sooners a chance to perhaps steal a win late.

With 1:27 left in the game, Hield did it again from the corner after sophomore Ryan Spangler came down with a missed free throw. Now the Bears' lead was just 72-68, and OU seemed to have Mr. Momentum on their side.

That couldn't have seemed more apparent than when BU's Royce O'Neale accidentally threw the ball into the stands from half court. But that's where the Sooner's comeback bid ended.

Down four with under a minute to play, the Sooners began looking to hit 3-pointers instead of driving toward the bucket. Near the end, they left themselves no recourse but to put Baylor on the foul line.

The Bears knew not to look a gift horse in the mouth. They road out the remainder of the game from the charity stripe and dropped OU 78-73 at the Sprint Center to move on to the semifinals of the Big 12 tournament.

"They dictated, and I thought we were reacting most of the first half especially," said Sooner coach Lon Kruger.

The Sooners looked done before the game had even fully gotten underway. Baylor scored the first 10 points of the game, and their scoring run only stopped after Hield hit a 3-pointer.

Sophomore guard Isaiah Cousins was noticeably absent from the score sheet, missing both of his only shot attempts in the first half.

From there, the Bears continued to impose their will, their athleticism, their 3-point shooting touch, on the Sooners. BU hit 6-of-10 treys in the first half and hit 55 percent of all its attempts from the floor.

They finished the game 50 percent from the floor, 50 percent from beyond the arc.

No Bear scored in double figures in the first half, but all of the Bears' starters scored at least seven points in the first 20 minutes. Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson each scored nine points in the half.

Jefferson routinely beat Spangler on the glass in the first half. He came down with eight boards while Spangler could manage only two.

Heading into the locker room, Baylor held a comfortable 47-31 lead over No. 17 Oklahoma. When the second half began, it did with the Sooners facing their largest halftime deficit since losing to Texas Tech at home on Feb. 12.

"I think they just hit us first," Spangler said. "The last two times we played, we hit them first and didn't let them do that to start. But today they hit us first. They got on a roll, and it was hard to stop."

Baylor didn't pour it on like it should have in the second half, though it kept the Sooners at bay for much of it with scoring. All five BU starters ended the game in double figures scoring.

Jefferson notched a double-double -- 14 points, 11 boards -- and Austin was all but uncontainable. He finished with 18 points, five boards and five blocks.

"With his size, he can block a lot of shots," said senior Cameron Clark. "We could've done a better job being more aggressive, but credit Baylor. They came out and popped us, and we didn't do what we needed to do to get the win."

Clark finished strong after shooting just 2-of-8 from the floor with five points in the first half. He ended the game with 19 points, three boards and three assists.

Clark received help from Hield who finished the game with 15 points on 6-of-15 shooting, but that was it. No other player scored in double figures for the Sooners.

Cousins finished with six points as did Spangler. Spangler picked up his rebounding, pulling a total of eight boards off the glass.

But where the Sooners were only beginning to find their rhythm late in the game the Bears grooved until the music stopped with a loud buzzer.



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