By Daniel Hill
The Baylor Bears fell to the Oklahoma Sooners 74-71 in a thrilling Big 12 Conference game on Wednesday night at the Ferrell Center.
The Bears came out in the first half and played lethargic basketball. They only managed 26 first-half points. Oklahoma, on the other hand, shot 53 percent from the field in the first half and surmounted a convincing 12-point lead going into the half, 38-26. The Bears only held the lead one time in the contest and that was early in the game with a 4-2 advantage.
Baylor had shown improvement on the defensive end of the court in Big 12 Conference play, but in the first half was a major step back for the Bears. The Bears conceded 38 first-half points and gave up many open looks.
“I think it’s a typical Big 12 game,” head coach Scott Drew said. “In the first half, we couldn’t stop them offensively. We didn’t come out and defend and rebound or take care of the ball like we needed to. They got us in a hole. Second half, the intensity and defense picked up and we were able to get some buckets. I’m proud of how we finished the game, disappointed with how we started the game. At the end of the day, you hate to put yourself in a position to climb back like that and not get over the hump. I think Oklahoma deserves a lot of the credit because they shot 53 percent against us. For the most part, they played an outstanding, stellar game.”
At one point in the second half, the Bears trailed 56-67. Then the Bears rallied on a 10-0 run and only trailed by one point. The run started with a junior guard Brady Heslip three. Then senior guard Pierre Jackson earned a steal and converted the layup. The Ferrell Center went wild when senior guard A.J. Walton followed with a steal of his own. He then drove hard in the paint, made the layup and was fouled. Walton converted the free throw to make it an old school three-point play.
Jackson sparked the last bucket of the 10 consecutive points with a tip-in that was a glowing example of his athleticism.
Sooner freshman guard Buddy Hield hit a layup for Oklahoma soon after. Baylor responded with two Jackson free throws. Oklahoma freshman guard Je’lon Hornbreak converted a layup to give Oklahoma a four-point lead, 71-67. Jackson made another layup to bring the Bears within two. Oklahoma once again responded when veteran senior guard Steven Pledger hit one of two free throws.
Jackson answered for Baylor once again by making two free throws.
Pledger corrected his form at the free throw line and converted two for Oklahoma to give the Sooners a 74-71 lead with only eight seconds remaining.
With a chance to tie the game, Jackson sprinted the length of the court and hoisted a three from the top of the arc. He missed, and freshman center Isaiah Austin grabbed the rebound and passed to Heslip.
Heslip was inside the three-point line so he was forced to use up valuable seconds to step back to the three-point line. Heslip attempted a shot at the buzzer but narrowly missed. Even if he had made it, the field goal may not have been good because it appeared as if the ball was still in Heslip’s hand as the buzzer sounded.
Austin led the Bears with a double-double, 17 points and 21 rebounds. Despite his impressive statistical game, Austin was more concerned with the loss.
When asked about his stat line after the game, Austin was not thrilled with his night.
“It really doesn’t matter,” Austin said. “We lost.”
Jackson stepped in and answered the question for Austin by applauding his effort in the loss.
“I’ll answer that,” Jackson said. “He had a great game. He’s a young player and that doesn’t really mean anything to him. He did a great job on both sides of the ball. I’m proud of the things he can do.”
Jackson had 22 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and three steals on the night. Jackson was the spark plug behind the Baylor comeback that ultimately fell short.
With the Baylor loss, the Bears and Sooners are now tied in the Big 12 at 5-2.
Baylor’s next game is at 7 p.m. Saturday at Iowa State on ESPN2.