By Michael Haag | Sports Writer
No. 3 Baylor men’s basketball was upset 72-67 in the quarterfinals of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Tournament by the University of Oklahoma Thursday evening in the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, Mo.
The Big 12 regular season champs shot a season-worst 3-of-22 (13.6%) from three-point range. Contrary to Baylor (26-6, 14-4 Big 12), OU found lots of success behind the arc, as they shot 53% from deep. The Sooners (18-14, 7-11 Big 12) were efficient from the floor as well, connecting on 51% of their shots, while the Bears couldn’t get the lid off the basket, only making 38% of their shots from the field.
Baylor forced 12 steals, the second-most in a Big 12 Championship game, and won the turnover battle 16-to-6, but it didn’t impact the scoreboard in their favor. Head coach Scott Drew was proud of the effort from the team, but felt he didn’t get his squad ready enough for the match.
“I was proud of the way our guys competed at the end, where we pressed and cut it to a one-possession game,” Drew said. “But how we started both halves was probably a key to the game. I probably did a bad job of preparing our guys.”
Four Bears notched double digit points, led by senior guard James Akinjo’s 16 to go along with six rebounds and three steals. Freshman forward Jeremy Sochan posted a solid 13 to tally with nine boards, while senior forward tandem Flo Thamba and Matthew Mayer put up 10 points each.
OU jumped out to an early 7-0 lead to force a Baylor timeout, but soon saw a Bear response. Throughout the period, Baylor trailed but limited the margin until an 8-2 run over the final 2:46 secured a 33-27 lead to close the half. Akinjo and Sochan led all scorers with eight points, paired with two steals apiece.
The Bears came out of the intermission battling, stuck in a close contest the rest of the way. Baylor stayed within an arm’s reach before a Sooner three-point play from senior guard and Waco native Umoja Gibson extended the OU lead to six with under a minute left. Stuck in desperation mode, the Bears failed to make up the lost ground, resulting in the five-point loss.
Baylor gets some time to rest and recover before the first round of the NCAA tournament begins on March 17-18. The Bears are projected to be a No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament selections that will be announced Sunday at 5 p.m. CT on CBS.