By Daniel Hill
Baylor’s 90-76 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners on Saturday puts the team in a tough situation. The loss brings the Bears’ record to 16-11 overall and 7-7 in the Big 12 Conference. This places the team at No. 6 in the Big 12.
Losing to the Sooners decreased the Bears’ chances of being selected for the NCAA Tournament.
With just a .500 record in conference, Baylor has a daunting challenge ahead for the remainder of the season if they want to pull off a coveted NCAA Tournament bid.
At the moment, it’s more likely that the Bears will end up in the NIT.
The Bears got off to a dismal start against Oklahoma and were trailing 47-21 after the first half.
After the game, Baylor head coach Scott Drew felt the need to apologize to Baylor fans everywhere for the team’s performance in Norman.
“I want to start out by apologizing to Baylor Nation,” Drew said. “[That was] the worst job of coaching I have done this year in the first half. I apologize for the team’s effort and lack of focus and intensity in the first half. Baylor deserves better than that.”
Three Baylor players ended up with double-digit scoring performances, but the scoring numbers are hollow considering the shooting percentages.
Baylor shot just 37.1 percent from the field as a team. The Bears allowed Oklahoma to shoot 50 percent from behind the 3-point line and 22 of 49 from the field.
Senior point guard Pierre Jackson scored 28 points on eight-of-23 shooting from the field. Jackson was three of 13 from behind the 3-point line.
“The loss was really tough,” Jackson said. “We settled for a lot of jumpers when we have been practicing going to the rack. They were just executing and we did not do enough to stop them. “
Seven-foot-1 freshman center Isaiah Austin had four rebounds in 24 minutes of play. Austin shot 41 percent from the field on seven of 17 field goal attempts for 15 points.
Junior guard Brady Heslip played 26 minutes and produced 11 points on four-of-10 shooting.
In the second half, the Bears scored an impressive 55 points, but it was too little, too late.
The Bears outscored Oklahoma in the second half, but the 26-point deficit from the first half was too much to overcome.
“I think we just need to play with intensity from the jump,” Heslip said. “In the second half, we came fired up and we were just running around and making things happen by getting tips, getting loose balls. We just cannot come out acting stagnant, acting like we are here. We have got to come out hungry and intense on defense, bouncing around and having more energy.”
The good news for the Bears is that the schedule presents them with key matchups for the remainder of the season.
The Bears have a road test at 7 p.m. Wednesday at West Virginia. Baylor faces No. 13 Kansas State in a marquee matchup in Waco on Saturday.
The Wildcats present the Bears with an opportunity to defeat a top-ranked team and gain some momentum heading into the Big 12 tournament.
The Bears’ next to last game of the season is on the road against Texas on March 4. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN Big Monday.
In the regular season finale, the highest-ranked team in the Big 12 comes to Waco. On March. 9, the No. 6 Kansas Jayhawks visit the Ferrell Center.
If Baylor can take care of business on the road and upset both Kansas State and Kansas, then the Bears will have vastly bolstered their résumé for the NCAA tournament. The schedule is tough for Baylor, which could be either a blessing and a curse.
The schedule gives the Bears a chance to slip up on the road, but it also presents them with a golden opportunity to gain national attention by scoring major upset wins at home.