Full-court press: Baylor

Round 2 takes place in Waco as Sooners look to rebound from loss to Kansas

Sooners Illustrated will present three things to watch before every men’s basketball game during the 2014-15 season.

No. 19 Oklahoma (12-6, 3-3) at No. 21 Baylor (14-4, 2-3)

When: 5:05 p.m. CST

TV/Radio: ESPN2/107.7 FM(OKC); 1430 AM (Tulsa)

Series: Oklahoma, 42-11

Thomas trying to bounce back

There was just one thing on Oklahoma forward TaShawn Thomas’ mind after the Sooners’ disheartening loss to Kansas on Monday. He wanted to get back in the gym and take what he called “one of his worst games” out of his memory.

Oklahoma had Tuesday off this week, but Thomas was in the gym with assistant coach Lew Hill shooting at 9 a.m. – after the team arrived back on campus at 1:30 a.m. early that same morning.

Thomas got a second session in later that afternoon after class by himself.

“I put that on myself to bounce back and kind of get rid of that game, don’t let it carry on and don’t let a slump happen,” he said. “I’ve been in the gym every day to try and get that game out of my mind.”

Thomas, who went 1-for-7 with six turnovers against the Jayhawks, will have to bounce back in front of a crowd of friends. The Ferrell Center, home court of the Baylor Bears, is less than 30 minutes from his house.

In his first return to his home state, Thomas had a collection of 40 fans in the upper section at the Erwin Center in Austin, TX. Despite still just have 20 tickets, he expects nearly 100 fans this time around.

“It’s going to feel really good to get out there and play in front of them again,” Thomas said. Thomas has just 20 points and 12 rebounds in the past three games combined after posting a 24-point performance and back-to-back double-doubles.

He said that he got frustrated during the game because his shots weren’t falling and that took him out of a rhythm. Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger isn’t worried that the lone senior in the starting line-up will bounce back.

“TaShawn felt worse about it than anyone else,” Kruger said. “If he didn't, we'd be more concerned. He'll bounce back. He'll bounce back. . . . That's the reaction you'd hope someone would have, so he'll bounce back.”

Sooners still struggling later in games

If a game has come down to the wire, it hasn’t gone Oklahoma’s way this season.

The Sooners narrowest margin of victory is 10 points, but they have lost by three points or less three times. Four of the six losses have been by seven points or fewer.

Usually, it’s because of a failure on the offensive end. Kruger pointed to struggles on the defensive end for the reason for the latest defeat against Kansas, when Oklahoma lost a four-point lead in the final five minutes.

“We lost probably more because of not getting stops on the other end,” Kruger said despite watching Oklahoma shooting 1-for-8 to close the game on eight straight 3-pointers. “We just couldn't get stops there. . . . That stretch between one minute and three minutes, I think was more defensively than offensively. It's hard. But that's what you've got to figure out—how to finish in those hard conditions. I think this conference is going to be made up of games like that.”

Kansas scored on 10 of its final 11 possessions, a stretch that began immediately after Oklahoma missed its first of eight-straight 3-pointers to end the game.

“It's just a case of you try to execute and make shots and get good shots and on the other end get stops,” he said.

Bears protecting their den

Oklahoma hasn’t found much resistance in Waco, TX, in the past, but this year, the Bears are making a point of winning at home.

Baylor is 9-1 in the Ferrell Center. The only loss came to Kansas by one point. On the flip side, Oklahoma has won back-to-back games when visiting Baylor, five straight against the Bears and has won 33 of 39 games since the start of the Big 12.

“Baylor's good. I think our guys respect that,” Kruger said. “Our guys have had a couple pretty good games down there but that doesn't really mean much going into this one.”

Oklahoma, which has faced six ranked teams in its first seven Big 12 games, has won in Waco by a combined five points the last two seasons but the Bears dominated the Sooners the previous three years – after snapping Oklahoma’s 30-game winning streak.

The Sooners have faced the most ranked teams in the nation (eight at the time of competition).

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