The Sooners showed more grit than Rooster Cogburn Saturday afternoon. They were battered and beaten physically but still thumped Baylor 90-76 at Lloyd Noble Center.
The game was a testament to the bruising wars the Sooners endure at practice and the resolve Oklahoma men's basketball coach Lon Kruger has instilled in them.
There were 57 total fouls called and 32 of them belonged to the Bears. Being tough enough to challenge talented teams is no longer a concern for the Sooners.
SCOOPHD: POSTGAME REACTION FROM OU'S 90-76 WIN OVER BAYLOR
If teams want to bang, OU is ready and willing. Former Sooner men's basketball player Stacey King saw that with his own eyes.
"Yeah, they're tough enough," King told SoonerScoop.com. "This is Oklahoma basketball."
Seniors Romero Osby, Steven Pledger and Sam Grooms led the way for the Sooners, combining for 59 of the Sooners' points. Osby scored 17 of them and added eight boards.
After being outrebounded 47-34 in the Sooners' first meeting with Baylor this season Jan. 30, and allowing freshman center Isaiah Austin to grabbed 20 rebounds against them, they took on control of the glass. OU narrowly outrebounded the Bears 38-37 but held Austin to just four boards.
"Well, coach made it a point and we made it a point, Amath (M'Baye) and myself and everybody - it was a team effort on the rebounds on the glass," Osby said.
Baylor point guard Pierre Jackson walked into Lloyd Noble Center as the Big 12's leading scorer averaging 18.9 points per game as well as its best provider distributing a league-high 6.36 assists per game.
The Sooners had given up an average of 27 points to starting point guards over their last two games, and with that knowledge Jackson had to be licking his chops, but the Sooners had other plans.
Kruger's men put the shackles on Jackson, holding him to 1-of-8 shooting and just four points in the first half while Pledger was unleashed on the Bears.
He opened Baylor's defense up with 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting in the first half. He was the only starter to play the full first 20 minutes, and his teammates followed his lead.
Pledger finished the game with 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the floor.
"I was just getting to my spots, hitting my shots," Pledger said.
Grooms received just his second start of the season against Baylor, and he might have stamped his name in the starting lineup for the duration of the season with his performance.
After setting a new career scoring-high with 18 points against Oklahoma State off the bench a week earlier, Grooms lit Baylor up for 23 points and four dimes. He also recored two steals, committed just three turnovers and hit 15-of-17 free throw attempts.
"He was being aggressive," Jackson said of Grooms. "He didn't hesitate to take shots."
Grooms has been the aggressive, point guard presence with the ball in his hands that Isaiah Cousins has not. Still, Grooms isn't giving up on Cousins and said he'll continue to do his part to help the fledgling freshman find his way.
"We still believe in him," Grooms said. "We're going to pick him up as much as we can. We need him. Period. Point blank."
While holding the Bears to just 8-of-31 shooting in the first half, the Sooners hit 44.8 percent of their shots from the floor. After establishing a 29-20 lead, Oklahoma road an 18-1 scoring run to a 47-21 halftime lead.
The Sooners were getting it done not just with timely shooting but with defense. OU forced 12 turnovers and recorded six steals in the game.
Freshman Je'lon Hornbeak personified OU's toughness when Baylor's Gary Franklin fell on top of Hornbeak causing the Sooner guard to smack his face against the hardwood, drawing blood from his mouth.
Kruger said Hornbeak chipped his teeth in the collision. Hornbeak re-entered the game to begin the second half and finished with 13 points and five rebounds before fouling out.
Kruger said he never hesitated to put Hornbeak back in the game once Sooner athletic trainer Alex Brown gave him the go-ahead.
How's that for toughness?