No. 1 Baylor dives right back into choppy waters vs. Oklahoma
Top-ranked Baylor puts its unbeaten season on the line Tuesday night when the Bears host dangerous and surging Oklahoma in Big 12 Conference play in Waco, Texas.
The Bears (13-0, 1-0 in Big 12 play) returned home after a gritty 79-72 win at Iowa State on Saturday in their conference opener. It was just Baylor's second true road game of the season and the first loss of the season for the Cyclones.
Beating top 10 opponents is not new territory for Baylor. And neither is the test awaiting against Oklahoma.
Despite committing a season-worst 19 turnovers, Baylor never trailed in the game but was never quite able to pull away. The Bears shot 50 percent from the floor and winning their nation-leading 19th consecutive game.
James Akinjo scored 16 points to lead the Bears in the victory. Baylor held Iowa State to 1 of 14 shooting from beyond the arc.
"Our point of emphasis was really trying to do a good job making it tough from 3 for them," Baylor coach Scott Drew said afterward. "That led to them getting 44 paint points, but we really did a good job on their shooters."
It was Baylor's ninth consecutive win in matchups with Top 10 opponents, a streak that began with a victory over No. 5 Illinois on Dec. 2, 2020.
"Big 12 road games are very tough, and they're hard to win," Drew said. "When you're able to get one, you're blessed. I thought we could have executed better down the stretch, but other than that, couldn't be more pleased."
The Sooners (11-2, 1-0 in Big 12 play) head to the banks of the Brazos River after a 71-69 home win over Kansas State on Saturday. Elijah Harkless scored 21 points for Oklahoma while Umoja Gibson added 19 points that included four key free throws in the final 20 seconds to secure the win.
Oklahoma led by 15 points in the first half and was up by 14 in the second before Kansas State rallied to tie the game at 65-65 with under a minute to play. Harkless then sank a contested shot, and Gibson finished the Wildcats with his late performance from the charity stripe.
"It wasn't the prettiest," Oklahoma coach Porter Moser said about Harkless's key bucket. "We wanted it in EJ's hand, and he just hit a tough, tough shot. Just tough as nails. He's hit big shots for us... man, what a shot he hit."
The Sooners have won four straight games and were victorious on Saturday despite playing without leading scorer Tanner Groves and key reserves Bijan Cortes and Jacob Groves because of COVID health and safety protocols. Those players' availability for Tuesday's game is still to be determined.
"We had to step up," Harkless said afterward. "Tanner's a big piece of our team. Next man up, as coach said. He's prepared us very well. We all stepped up, showed our senior leadership, came out and beat a very good Kansas State team. That just showed great growth in our circle."
--Field Level Media
Updated January 2, 2022