WACO- Searching for their first win against a top ranked team on the road, the Oklahoma Sooners pushed the Baylor Bears to the limit.
With forward Austin Reaves posted up in the corner, De’Vion Harmon fed the playmaker while Oklahoma trailed by just two points with three seconds left.
Reaves missed the go-ahead jumper however, and the Sooners left Waco, TX with their third conference loss.
The 61-57 defeat saw the Sooners fall to 12-6 on the season, and 3-3 in conference play.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
Rebounding a problem again
The Sooners played well enough on the defensive end of the floor, but their rebounding let them down yet again.
Baylor finished the game with a 10 rebound advantage, but the Bears made their money cleaning up the offensive glass.
First half rebounding was especially problematic for the Sooners. Oklahoma allowed the Bears to collect 12 offensive rebounds, which Baylor converted into 11 second chance points (Oklahoma trailed by 11 points at halftime).
Oklahoma’s biggest area of improvement over the course of the season has been their defense.
After struggling with perimeter defense early in the season, the Sooners continued to defend the three point line well. Oklahoma held Baylor to just 23 percent shooting from deep, making just 6-of-26 attempts.
If the Sooners continue their defensive improvements, Oklahoma could be primed to be a sleeper pick for an upset or two come March.
The bench is growing up:
Depth is paramount in the midst of the conference grind.
Oklahoma Coach Lon Kruger will be pleased with how his young team in growing throughout the course of conference play.
Many newcomers gave key contributions off the bench to keep the Sooners in the game while some of Oklahoma’s bigger names struggled.
Alondes Williams scored seven points in the first half, leading the all Sooner scorers at the break. Williams’ night is a welcome addition after he struggled since being inserted into the starting lineup for Harmon toward the end of the non-conference slate.
Victor Iwuakor also took advantage of his 10 minute cameo against the Bears. Iwuakor helped Oklahoma shore up the boards, pulling down four rebounds and helping the Sooners close the gap in the second half.
Oklahoma’s “Big Three” needed to push them over the hump
Against the best of the best in Big 12 play, Oklahoma’s “Big Three” has struggled.
In Oklahoma’s loss to the Kansas Jayhawks, Brady Manek, Kristian Doolittle and Reaves combined to shoot 23 percent from the field.
Manek, fresh off setting his career high in scoring in his last outing against TCU, showed out for Oklahoma, leading all scorers with 21 points.
Doolittle and Reaves however combined to score just eight points on 22 percent shooting against the Bears, including shooting a dismal 2-of-13 from three.
The Sooners are close. They’ve made strides on the defensive end of the floor, they limit turnovers and they are efficient from the free throw line, but they need at least two of their best three players to play well if the Sooners are going to pull an upset against one of the top teams in the country.
Oklahoma will now take a brief pause from the conference grind. The Sooners will host Mississippi State in their next matchup as a part of the Big 12-SEC Challenge.
The Sooners and the Bulldogs will square off at 1 p.m. on Saturday from the Chesapeake Energy Arena.