By Cody Soto
Saturday’s matchup between No. 21 Baylor men’s basketball and No. 19 Oklahoma was the third straight Associated Press Top 25 game at the Ferrell Center, and the Bears went on a big run late in the second half to defeat the Sooners 69-58.
“I am really proud of how the guys executed down the stretch,” head coach Scott Drew said. “We were 8-for-8 from the free throw line, shot 50 percent. [Oklahoma] is a great team and we had to work hard in order to get a win like this.”
Baylor (15-4, 3-3 Big 12) avenged a 73-63 loss from the team’s last meeting with the Sooners on Jan. 3. The Bears ran a different route; this time with limited help from freshman forward Johnathan Motley, who scored a career-high 24 points in Norman.
For Oklahoma (12-7, 3-4), Jordan Woodard and Buddy Hield led the Sooners with 12 points apiece. Ryan Spangler had seven rebounds in the loss.
Junior guard Lester Medford led the Bears with 17 points on a 60 percent shooting percentage, including three triples from beyond the arc. Senior guard Kenny Chery added 13 points, junior forward Taurean Prince had 12, and senior forward Royce O’Neale contributed 10 points in the win.
“Everybody was being unselfish and sharing the ball,” O’Neale said. “Each game is critical, especially at home. We have to defend our home court.”
Gathers led all players with eight rebounds and helped push the Bears to the 11-point win. Medford distributed the ball quickly and dished five assists, allowing Baylor to find holes in the Oklahoma defense.
Baylor seemed to dictate most of the first half while shooting 48.1 percent and using Medford and Prince to push the lead over the Sooners. Oklahoma shot 30.6 percent and gave up 17 defensive boards to Baylor. After allowing six straight points, the Bears dished a pass to Chery for a three-pointer to finish the half and head into the locker room leading 30-24.
The Bears did not come out with the same intensity they had in the first half. The crowd watched a six-point lead evaporate as Oklahoma took a 31-30 lead with 18:51 left in the game. Turnovers started piling up for Baylor, and the Sooners looked to have defeated the zone to get wide-open shots and layups.
With 8:03 to go, Oklahoma led 49-46 after a three-pointer from Jordan Woodard. It looked like the Bears had had enough. Chery nailed a three-point shot to tie up the game followed by a layup by Gathers to take the lead with five minutes left in the matchup.
The weakness in the Bears’ game tonight was turnovers. Baylor had 15 turnovers, which didn’t allow them to stretch the lead in important parts of the game. However, the tide had turned in the final five minutes as the Bears forced the Sooners to make a few mistakes of their own.
“Everybody has really got acclimated [to playing in close games],” Drew said. “Lester played outstanding tonight, and I think he’s gotten more used to Big 12 play: knowing what he can and can’t do. I’m proud of the team.”
Medford and Gathers accounted for five more points before the Sooners could answer with a three-pointer by Frank Booker. The momentum was all on Baylor’s side, and the Bears used the crowd’s energy to finish the game with a 69-58 win.
“[The crowd] helped out a lot,” Medford said. “Our student section was unbelievable. They cheered the whole game whether we were down or we were up.”
The Bears travel to Stillwater, Okla. to take on the Oklahoma State Cowboys on Tuesday. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. on ESPNEWS.