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Late-Game Issues Doom Sooners In Waco

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WACO, Texas -

It sure is difficult to figure out this Oklahoma basketball team.

On paper, you see a lot of talent and experience. But on the court, you see questionable shot selection, some timidity and atrocious late-game execution.

The Sooners were done in by late-game play once again on Saturday, as No. 21 Baylor rallied late to take down No. 19 Oklahoma, 69-58.

It was the fourth loss in the last five games for OU, and dropped the Sooners to 12-7 and 3-4 in Big 12 play.

The stat that tells the tale of the Sooners this season is this: Oklahoma has yet to win a game by single digits this season. When the Sooners caved on the road against Creighton to start the season, most chalked it up to a tough road environment and the second game of the season for OU.

Instead, it appears to have been a sign of things to come.

Oklahoma lost a tight game with Washington, had second half leads against Kansas State and Kansas before fading and losing both games, and then did the same against Baylor on Saturday.

It's a disturbing trend for a team that is not short on experience or talent. It becomes baffling when you see the Sooners play so well in these close games, only to get away from the very things that gave them a chance to win in the first place.

Buddy Hield and Jordan Woodard each had 12 points to lead OU, while TaShawn Thomas and Ryan Spangler each scored 10 points for the Sooners which shot 38.7 percent for the game.

Lester Medford had 17 points to lead four Baylor players in double figures. Kenny Chery had 13 and Royce O'Neale had 10 points while Taurean Prince had 12 points off the bench.

Saturday, the Sooners got off to a terrible start, falling behind by as many as nine points in the first half. After enjoying a lot of success against the Bears' zone in the meeting between the two teams on Jan. 3, the Sooners got away from that in Waco, shooting 14 3-pointers in the first half and making just two of them. For the half, OU shot just 30.6 percent, but closed the half shooting 6-of-11 and trailed 30-24 at the break.

In the first half, Isaiah Cousins suffered a sprained right wrist. He iced it on the bench and played with it wrapped, but apparently the pain was too much. He hit a 3-pointer late in the first half and one to start the second half, but hardly played the rest of the way. X-rays after the game were negative and Cousins will be day-to-day.

But the Sooners' slow start was negated quickly as Oklahoma scored the first seven points of the second half to take its first lead. The Sooners took a 49-46 lead with 8:05 to play on a 3-pointer from Jordan Woodard. The sophomore was brilliant on Saturday, dishing out six assists without a turnover in addition to his 12 points.

That's when the game turned. Oklahoma didn't score again until a Frank Booker 3-pointer with three and a half minutes to play. Meanwhile, Baylor rattled off a 10-0 run, punctuated by a Rico Gathers slam on a fast break that put the Bears up 56-49 with 3:44 remaining.

The Sooners had plenty of opportunities to climb back into the game, but Baylor's run seemed to take the life out of the Sooners. After Woodard's 3-pointer, the Sooners missed eight shots and had four turnovers the rest of the game, scoring just nine more points in the final eight minutes.

Meanwhile, Baylor scored on nine of its last 12 possessions and finished the game shooting 50 percent from the field.

After starting the Big 12 season by playing six ranked teams in seven games, the Sooners get as much a break as you can in this league, facing Texas Tech and West Virginia at home and Oklahoma State and TCU on the road in the next four games. Oklahoma can easily get back on the right track. After all, the Sooners lost three of four games halfway through the Big 12 season last year before winning five of six to close the regular season.

But the Sooners won't be going anywhere if they don't fix the late-game issues that have led to five of their seven losses. It's a big and baffling problem for Oklahoma, one that has wrecked a season that looked like it could produce big things.

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