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Sooners' Big 12 Loss A Concern, But Not Cause To Panic

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NORMAN, Oklahoma -

Oklahoma's loss to Baylor Thursday night in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals wasn't shocking, but it was surprising.

It wasn't shocking because Baylor is bigger, more experienced and more talented than the Sooners and should have been better than Oklahoma all season, not just Thursday night in Kansas City. The Sooners swept the regular season games between the two teams in spite of those deficiencies.

What is shocking is that Baylor managed to put everything together to rip off nine wins in 10 games despite deficiencies of their own (read: coaching).

But it was still surprising the Sooners lost because OU came into Kansas City winners of five of six and playing some of its best basketball of the season. Situated on the more favorable side of the bracket, it seemed likely the Sooners would make a run in the tournament, or at the very least win their first Big 12 tournament game in three years.

Related Story: Cold-Shooting Sooners Fall To Baylor In Big 12 Tournament

Instead, the Sooners got punched in the mouth by the Bears right out of the gate and never recovered.

"I thought it was a ballgame in which Baylor from the start, I thought, was more aggressive and dictated," OU coach Lon Kruger said. "I thought we were reacting most of the first half, especially, they were quick on loose balls and they did a good job. They did a really good job. I thought they played with more urgency and determination from the start."

Earlier this week, Kruger said his team was "giddy" and "anxious" to get on the court and play. To come out that flat with as much momentum as OU had and as excited as they were to play is not a good sign.

"We just got too comfortable, I feel like," senior Cam Clark said. "We've just gotta come out more aggressive from the start; playing like we've got something to lose."

It's a bit concerning that Oklahoma couldn't come up with the energy to get off to a fast—or at least decent—start on Thursday, but it's not a major red flag. The Sooners are a very young team—six of the top eight scorers are sophomores or freshmen—and young players are prone to lapses like this. Every day is a battle to stay focused and mentally prepared for the challenge ahead. The Sooners apparently were ready on Wednesday, but when the ball went up on Thursday, a different mindset had crept in.

Now, Oklahoma has to find a new store of momentum before heading off to their NCAA tournament location. That's not easy to do, especially coming off a loss that some would find hard to believe. However, the Sooners know they played a game far from their top level of play and will be eager to prove themselves once again.

Just look at the other two head-scratching losses the Sooners have had this season. OU fell to Louisiana Tech in Norman on Dec. 30, and then raced out to a 6-2 start in Big 12 play with wins over Texas, Iowa State, Baylor and Oklahoma State. The Sooners' streak of five wins in six games came after a loss at home to Texas Tech Feb. 12, the only loss being a close one at the hands of Kansas on the road.

The Sooners have shown a propensity for bouncing back this season, but it hasn't only been this year. Oklahoma had a similar trend last season until postseason play. OU has done a good job of not allowing one loss to turn into two and that will be tested again next week in the NCAA tournament, where one more loss means the end of the season.

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