Sooners Come Up Short Against Baylor

NORMAN, Okla. — In yet another game, another loss for the Sooners, this time as they fell to the Baylor Bears 77-65 Tuesday night at Lloyd Noble Center, it was the defense that let them down again.

Never mind the fact that OU shot nearly 47 percent from the floor because the Bears trumped that and then some, shooting a blazing 54 percent against OU's defense, exploiting them time after time.

"I don't know that it's frustration," said head coach Lon Kruger. "We just have a long way to go defensively. If we want to guard Big 12 people and hold them field goal percentage wise, we've gotta just do a better job. We've got to develop better habits in practice. We have to practice better. We have to do a better job from a coaching standpoint to help them do that.

"But that's part of just making progress. We made progress across the board and getting stops is certainly a critical area for this group."

The Sooners just simply couldn't get those on this night.

Instead, Baylor scored at will, even from the outside where it canned 9-of-18 tries.

Time and time again, when the Sooners drew within striking distance, their defense failed and Baylor came up with a crucial bucket.

In the most crucial stretch, it was their inability to rebound that prevented them from closing out a possession on the defensive end of the court.

Trailing just 62-60 with 4:42 remaining, the Sooners forced a miss, but forward Perry Jones III came up with a massive rebound and put it back.

OU never got closer than that again.

In a way, that one possession epitomized the whole game, close, close, but never able to get over the hump.

"We're a step away," said guard Steven Pledger. "I feel like we're just one more. We've just got to make that one more extra step, get that one more extra rebound, box out one time harder. We're just one more step away from everything."

The Sooners were for most of the night.

Even though, they trailed by as much as 13 in the second half, they were within four or six for a good portion of the game.

But Jones III, who led all scorers with 21, and the rest of the Bears kept coming up with play after play after play that kept it just enough out of reach.

"I feel like we're making progress, but moral victories are something we don't really want to accept," Osby said. "We kind of want to say, ‘OK, we're close but let's get there.' Let's not continue to say, ‘OK, we'll get closer next game,' or, ‘We'll get closer next game [after that].' That's not how it is."

But the fact of the matter is, OU did hang around with a very athletic, potentially Final Four bound Baylor group.

It lost the rebounding battle just 31-27, points in the paint by a narrow 30-24 margin and even tied in second chance points with 13 of those.

Simply get a few more stops, and the Sooners could possibly have been on the other end of this one.

So, that is certainly a positive to draw.

That, plus the fact that they competed against one of the best teams in the country, although at the end it just looked like they ran out of gas.

"Yeah, but I don't really like to blame stuff on fatigue," Osby said. "If you're tired, Coach always tells us to get a sub. I think it's selfish to stay out there if you are tired. I don't want to blame it on fatigue. Like I said, we've got to get tougher, mentally and physically. We've got to find a way to get stops in crucial times."

Baylor drew first blood with a 3-pointer 1:22 into the contest and never trailed after that point, leading 35-30 at intermission.

The Bears stretched it to 13 at 54-41 with 14:07 to go.

But OU used a 19-8 run over the next nine-plus minutes to draw within two before running out of gas.

Along with Jones III, three other Bears finished in double figures, including guard Pierre Jackson and forwards Quincy Acy and Anthony Jones, who managed 16, 13 and 11, respectively.

Pledger's 17 led the way for OU, while forwards Romero Osby and Andrew Fitzgerald finished with 16 and 13, respectively.

The Sooners have now suffered their second setback in a row since posting two consecutive conference victories, dropping their overall record to 12-7 and just 2-5 in the Big 12.

They'll now head to Kansas State and attempt to pull off the season sweep when they meet at 6 p.m. CT Saturday.

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