On a night of celebration, No. 6 Oklahoma saved some suspenseful basketball for the last home game of the season as the Sooners held off No. 19 Baylor 73-71 In front of a sold out Lloyd Noble Center crowd.
OU led by as many as 26 points in the first half, but Baylor viciously fought back to take a lead with under four minutes left in the game, but the Sooners proved to be the stronger team and executed down the stretch to pull out the win.
Buddy Hield highlighted the Senior Night festivities with his emotional introduction before the game started, and then put an exclamation point on his night by scoring a game-high 23 points.
Lon Kruger dialed up an aggressive game plan which put the Sooners up big fairly quickly. Led by suffocating defense, OU (23-6, 11-6) forced six straight turnovers at one point early in the first half and it was evident the Sooners knew the significance of such a special night.
One tone-setting moment occurred less than five minutes into the game with the Sooners on defense. Baylor’s Jake Lindsey brought the ball up past half court, where a crouching Hield stood waiting to defend and pounce on his opponent. In a blink of an eye, Hield poked the ball free and took off down court with a head full of steam. As Hield went up for the layup, the superstar senior was able to absorb the contact from Lindsey and score the basket while getting fouled.
Oklahoma held a 13-3 lead after Hield made the free throw, but that spurt was only a part of a 26-to-1 run that put OU up 26-3 with 12:28 left in the first half. The Bears were able to get there feet under them a bit, but the Sooners went into intermission with a 46-25 lead.
Defense leads to offense for #Sooners. A 26-1 run is rare, so is 15-0 points off turnover adv 6 mins into game. @OU_MBBall @NEWS9— Dean Blevins (@DeanBlevins) March 2, 2016
Defense leads to offense for #Sooners. A 26-1 run is rare, so is 15-0 points off turnover adv 6 mins into game. @OU_MBBall @NEWS9
The Sooners were ahead by a comfortable margin throughout most of the second half, but Baylor head coach Scott Drew’s decision to switch to a man-to-man defense as opposed to a zone really benefited the Bears in a big way.
Baylor ripped off a 21-to-2 run and in a matter of no time took a 68-67 lead over OU, which stunned the crowd inside of LNC . OU suddenly looked out of whack and unable to make anything happen on the offensive end.
As stunning a turnaround as I've seen. Kruger's gotta change their mindset first. Layup after layup after layup. Texas replay. @News9— Dean Blevins (@DeanBlevins) March 2, 2016
As stunning a turnaround as I've seen. Kruger's gotta change their mindset first. Layup after layup after layup. Texas replay. @News9
But with Hield on the team, there’s always a chance to win the game, and the likely favorite to win the National Player of the Year Award showed why he’s deserving of the honor.
Isaiah Cousins gave the Sooners the lead back with an elbow jumper, and just over a minute later Hield showcased his playmaking ability by breezing past a Baylor defender as he extended the Sooners lead to three points with a layup.
After a Baylor travel on the other end, Hield drained a pair of free throws to put the Sooners up five points with only 17 seconds left and OU was able to hold on for the surprisingly narrow win.
Ryan Spangler scored 15 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in his last home game, while Cousins added 10 points, five rebounds and four assists in his Norman finale.
Taurean Prince and King McClure each scored 17 points to lead Baylor (21-9, 10-7) in scoring.
Also honored on Tuesday night was former OU legend Blake Griffin, who had his number 23 raised into the rafters at halftime of the game. Griffin also supplied the entire OU team with a pair of new Jordan brand basketball shoes that were worn throughout the game.
Blake's jersey 23 re-retired after Tiz before him. @OU_MBBall @news9 pic.twitter.com/R4JVbMrftj— Dean Blevins (@DeanBlevins) March 2, 2016
Blake's jersey 23 re-retired after Tiz before him. @OU_MBBall @news9 pic.twitter.com/R4JVbMrftj
No. 2?3? and 2?4? pic.twitter.com/gRv2XwHXIR— Oklahoma Basketball (@OU_MBBall) March 2, 2016
No. 2?3? and 2?4? pic.twitter.com/gRv2XwHXIR
OU will end the regular season on Saturday afternoon when they take on TCU in Fort Worth at 12 p.m.