By Jeff Latzke
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Sam Grooms scored a career-high 23 points, Steven Pledger had 17 of his 19 points in the first half as Oklahoma built a big lead and the Sooners held off Baylor’s comeback attempt for a 90-76 victory on Saturday.
With the win, Oklahoma (18-8, 9-5 Big 12) remained ahead of the Bears in the conference standings and swept the season series after getting swept a season ago.
Grooms did most of his damage at the free-throw line, drawing frequent fouls as Baylor resorted to full-court pressure after falling behind. He went 15 for 17 on foul shots and Oklahoma went 39 for 45 to set season-highs in both categories.
Big 12 scoring leader Pierre Jackson scored 24 of his 28 points after changing shoes at halftime, but was unable to get Baylor (16-11, 7-7) any closer than 12 after trailing by 26 at the half.
Jackson and Isaiah Austin combined for 10 of Baylor’s points during a 13-2 run that cut Oklahoma’s 26-point halftime lead down to 51-36 with 13:15 to play. That was still far too little to recover after Jackson’s poor shooting start and Austin’s foul-plagued first half.
The Sooners extended their lead back out to 60-39 after Cameron Clark’s jumper, which was allowed to stand even after officials checked instant replay and assessed a flagrant foul against Clark for elbowing Jackson’s face before the shot.
The Bears kept applying defensive pressure and inched closer as the game progressed, pulling within 82-70 after Jackson’s two free throws with 2:20 to go, but it would get no closer.
Romero Osby chipped in 17 points and eight rebounds, and Je’lon Hornbeak had 13 points off the bench for the Sooners.
Austin ended up with 15 points and Brady Heslip scored 11 for Baylor, which started out 4 for 22 from 3-point range before a brief flurry in the second half.
After missing seven of his eight shots in the first half, Jackson switched from a pair of bright gold shoes that matched Baylor’s uniforms to a pair of fluorescent yellow ones. He also got more aggressive, attacking the basket after taking all but one of his shots from 3-point range in the first half, and became the fifth Bears player to surpass 1,000 points in his first two seasons.
The Sooners, which scored their most points this season for a second straight game, were still too far ahead for it to make a difference.
Oklahoma took charge early, convincing the Bears to get out of their zone defense by hitting four straight 3-pointers — one apiece from Hornbeak and Amath M’Baye and two by Pledger — and pushing its lead to 19-8 after Hornbeak’s three-point play. It only got worse for Baylor in the final 5 minutes of the first half.
With Jackson misfiring and the 7-footer Austin on the bench with two fouls, the Sooners got going on a 16-0 run that included 12 free throws — half of them by Grooms. Midway through the run, coach Scott Drew tried to re-insert Austin and stop the bleeding, only for Austin to pick up his third foul. He tried to pull up while tracking down a rebound that Grooms corralled, and couldn’t stop himself from leaning onto Grooms’ back.
L.J. Rose finally stopped the scoring drought by making one of two free throws with 5.5 seconds left, but the Bears let Osby race to the other end for an easy lay-up that made it 47-21 at halftime.