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Three's Company: Sooners Take Down Baylor Behind Barrage From Deep

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NORMAN, Oklahoma -

Before Saturday night's game between No. 21 Oklahoma and Baylor, someone should have place a sign reading, "No 2-Pointers Allowed" outside of Lloyd Noble Center. There may as well have been, since both teams adhered to that rule fairly well.

Oklahoma splashed in 11 first half 3-pointers—14 for the game—and broke a two-game losing streak by defeating Baylor, 88-72.

With the win, Oklahoma moved into third place by itself in the Big 12 conference with a 7-4 record. The Sooners are now 18-6 overall, with another home game against Texas Tech coming on Wednesday night.

Saturday against the Bears, it was a full team effort that led to the win. Sophomore Isaiah Cousins had a career-high 21 points and a team-high seven rebounds to lead the Sooners. Buddy Hield had 19 points and Cam Clark had 16, snapping a three-game skid of not scoring in double figures.

Isaiah Austin led the Bears with 21 points while Brady Heslip had 12 points. They were the only two players in double figures for Baylor, which shot 42.4 percent for the game.

The Sooners hit 53.6 percent for the game, including a sizzling 64 percent in the first half. OU coach Lon Kruger said Saturday was "probably" the team's best jump-shooting performance this season.

"In terms of having a lot of different people jumping up there," Kruger said. "When you have all those guys making shots like that, it's obviously a little bit more difficult to guard."

It was a tale of two halves for the Sooners offensively, as Hield dropped in 17 points in an incredible first half, hitting 5-of-6 from 3-point range.

"My teammates found me in the right shooting spot and I was able to pick my teammates up and keep going from there," Hield said.

After his torrid start, Hield didn't' score in the last eight minutes, and only scored two points in the second half as the Baylor defense honed in on him and locked him down.

"They started denying me the ball a little bit," Hield said. "Coach Kruger did a good job of getting other guys shots. He found ways to get Isaiah going and found a mismatch."

With Baylor worrying about Hield, Cousins took over in the second half, connecting on 4-of-7 from the field and all six of his free throw attempts for 15 points. He also grabbed six rebounds in the half.

"Everyone was focused in on Buddy," Cousins said. "That kind of gave me the advantage to attack more and be more aggressive."

Cousins wasn't the only one who picked up the slack in the second 20 minutes. Je'lon Hornbeak had all eight of his points in the second half, and Jordan Woodard and Clark each had seven.

Hield and Cousins' performances in the first and second halves, respectively, showed the potency of this Oklahoma team when things are clicking on all cylinders. The Sooners scored 88 points with none coming from Ryan Spangler, who was nullified in the paint by the size and length of the Baylor bigs.

Clark most likely would have scored much more than 16 points—he was 7-of-8 from the field—but foul trouble hampered Clark for much of the second half.

"It's special," Hield said. "You don't know who's going to have a good night, so we just have to come ready to play. All of our guys come ready to play, each and every day, no matter the circumstances we face."

It didn't take long for the Sooners to get rolling on offense, as Hield hit three 3-pointers in the first six minutes. The Sooners trailed, 11-10, with 15:15 remaining in the first half, but rattled off a 16-4 run that included four 3-pointers over the next five minutes. The Sooners would establish a 12-point lead twice in the first half, but the Bears, buoyed by a 7-of-15 performance from deep, managed to keep the game from getting out of control. OU led, 43-35 at halftime.

Baylor kept it close in the second half, drawing to within 57-51 with 13:42 to go in the game on an Austin dunk. However, the Sooners rattled off an 11-0 run to push the lead to 68-52. The highlight of the run was D.J. Bennett who blocked a shot from BU's Cory Jefferson on one end, and put in a nifty baby hook shot on the other to force a timeout from Baylor coach Scott Drew.

The Bears battled back, closing the margin to 71-63 on two free throws from Royce O'Neale with 6:41 to play. However, Oklahoma put the game away behind a 13-of-15 performance at the foul line and terrific defense that held the Bears without a field goal for three minutes while the lead ballooned from 10 points to 17 with 1:13 to play.

 

Oklahoma Basketball Notebook

-Ryan Spangler didn't have a great night, going scoreless and grabbing just six rebounds. Spangler did dish out a career-high five assists, though. Spangler's lack of production offensively—and on the boards—could be attributed to the size and length of the Baylor bigs. Spangler is normally able to out-hustle players that are around his size, but the trio of Isaiah Austin, Rico Gathers and Cory Jefferson are all bigger and probably stronger as well.

-The OU bench chipped in 23 points against the Bears, with Je'lon Hornbeak scoring eight and Tyler Neal scoring nine. If the Sooners are going to continue to get 55 points from their starters like they did Saturday (more if you assume Spangler scores), then the bench scoring 20+ makes for an impressive offensive display.

-Cam Clark's production is a key for the Sooners' success the rest of the way. It was good to see him snap out of a three-game funk that saw him average 7.6 points on less than 50 percent shooting. Clark had 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting against the Bears and would've had more if he hadn't dealt with foul trouble.

-It was a very clean game on Saturday, as both teams combined for just 16 turnovers.

-The first half was all about the 3-pointer. 11 of OU's 16 field goals were 3-pointers and the teams combined for just five free throw attempts against 33 3-point attempts. It was an impressive and exciting shooting display.

-Baylor is now 2-8 in Big 12 play this season, but coach Scott Drew summed things up well for how the Bears should be approaching the rest of the season. "I think it's an honor and privilege to play in the Big 12 each and every night. You have the best competition in the country, so if you can't get excited for that no matter how you're playing then you got something wrong with you." Great perspective from a guy that gets criticized much more than he's praised.

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