History continues to be rewritten at Baylor.
One Big 12 opponent, Oklahoma, had completely dominated the series each year since the inception of the conference in 1996-97.
But the Bears claimed a sweep of the Sooners this year, winning 70-63 in Norman on Feb. 27. The victory ended a 14-game road losing streak against Oklahoma, a team Baylor beat for the first time ever in Big 12 play at home in the conference opener.
"That's one less question we won't have to answer every year when we come up here," Baylor coach Scott Drew said.
The outcome also represents a significant shift -- at least for this year -- in the South Division's balance of power. While Baylor has been on the rise in recent seasons, this is clearly its best run under Drew. The Bears climbed to 22-6 and at 9-5 have already clinched a winning record in the Big 12.
"But it's still a long season," said forward Ekpe Udoh, a Michigan transfer who's impacted Baylor as much as any newcomer has a Big 12 team. "We have two more (conference) games, the conference tournament and the big dance. We've got to get better and keep surprising people."
Not much chance of catching anyone by surprise anymore. The Bears need to rely on the principles that have carried them so far -- an imposing zone featuring Udoh as a Big 12 record-setting shot blocker, and a balanced inside-out attack that has exhibited far more patience this season finding open looks.
--With a Feb. 27 victory at Oklahoma, Baylor claimed its 22nd win, tying the 2007-08 team for the most victories by the Bears in the regular season. The 20-win season is the third in a row for Baylor, but just the sixth in the program's history.
--Baylor drew a season-high 10,094 for its home win on Feb. 24 against Texas A&M. Although it was the 201st meeting between the former Southwest Conference rivals, it was only the second time the matchup featured two teams ranked in the top 25.
ON THE SPOT: While his seven blocks against Oklahoma enabled F Ekpe Udoh to set the Big 12 record for blocks in a season by padding his total to 122, the Bears' inside defense was susceptible. OU freshman Tiny Gallon used his strength to post 23 points and 15 rebounds. While long, the Bears seem to have problems against burly big men who can use their bulk to gain positioning.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "They'll be a nightmare for teams in the (NCAA) tournament. I don't think there's any agendas on their team, either. From an outside observer, that might have been a problem last year. … This team understands that when you win everyone looks good." -- Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel on Baylor.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: The surge by Baylor this season has been keyed with stronger players up front who make penetrating the Bears' zone defense difficult. Baylor also knows how to rebound out of the zone, leading the Big 12 in rebounding margin (plus-7.2). With big players to kick the ball into, openings often exist along the arc for G LaceDarius Dunn or G Tweety Carter.
Oklahoma State 82, Baylor 75.
Texas A&M 70, Baylor 66.
Baylor 70, Oklahoma 63.
at Texas Tech, Tuesday, March 2.
vs. Texas, Saturday, March 6.
at Big 12 Tournament, March 10-13.
IN FOCUS: Texas Tech is in a slump, dropping its fifth straight on Feb. 27 with an overtime loss against last-place Nebraska. The Red Raiders are tougher at home, but still beatable. The home game against Texas figures to draw the largest crowd of the season to the Ferrell Center as the Bears go for a rare season sweep of the inconsistent Longhorns.
--G LaceDarius Dunn led Baylor in scoring for the seventh time in eight games with 21 points at Oklahoma. He made 5 of 9 shots from 3-point range. The junior stands sixth on the all-time Big 12 list for treys with 278.
--F Quincy Acy barely missed a double-double at Oklahoma. In 26 minutes off the bench he produced nine points and a team-high nine rebounds.
--F Ekpe Udoh broke the Big 12 record for blocked shots in a season, boosting his total to 122 with seven against Oklahoma. He also scored 20 points, going 9-for-14.