OU opens Big 12 play with 73-63 victory

Thomas' 24 points leads Sooners past No. 22 Baylor

As the non-conference season concluded, TaShawn Thomas asked himself questions – unhappy with his play.

He brought it up with the coaches, who told him to just wait until the Big 12 Conference schedule opened.

It would be a new beginning, a new season.

Instead of that usual Welcome-to-the-Big-12 moment, Thomas introduced himself to the league Saturday afternoon in Oklahoma’s conference opener against No. 22 Baylor.

He made a point of starting a new, and it began with a game-high 24 points and eight rebounds as the Sooners held off Baylor late for a 73-63 victory.

“I just came out with a fresh mindset and didn’t try to think about anything that happened in the preseason or anything like that,” Thomas said. “I just tried to come out and try to play strong.”

Baylor (11-2, 0-1 Big 12) set out to take the Sooners’ 3-point shot away with its zone. The Bears, who had won six straight, did just that early. No. 18 Oklahoma went 2-for-8 from behind the arc in the first 12 minutes.

The Bears’ defensive choice opened up the inside for Thomas to hit a short hook shot and snap four-straight misses. Guard Buddy Hield knocked down a pair of 3s in transition on the next two possessions, and the Sooners had a one-point lead despite playing as the worse of the two teams.

“I saw an opening, and I just thought shoot it,” said Hield, who finished with 20 points and a season-high 10 rebounds. “I know coach wants me to shoot the ball too. . . . It’s a momentum changer. Those shots can change the game. I just stepped up and made the shot.”

The lead changed hands four times during the next four minutes before Oklahoma took the lead for good.

A quick 7-0 spurt in the first few minutes of the second half gave the Sooners a nine-point lead. Baylor never pulled within five points for the rest of the game.

Isaiah Cousins scored 19 points and had eight rebounds as the Sooners’ “Big 3” finished with 63 points, 26 rebounds and six assists.

It started with Thomas.

“He’s a killer,” Hield said of Thomas. “He’s ready to play all the time. He always tells me he’s ready. I trust him.”

Oklahoma’s defense took over in the second half, holding Baylor to 29 percent from the field. “Put a lid on the rim,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said of the Sooners’ second-half defense. “They just didn’t give us any easy looks.”

Baylor went without a make basket for more than seven minutes spanning the halftime break and scored just one basket in an eight-minute span midway through the second half.

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