WACO (AP) – Thanks to guards young and old, Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger could still feel good after watching his team squander just about every bit of a 16-point lead after halftime.
When Baylor scored 10 in a row to get within a point, freshman guard Buddy Hield drove for a bank shot with 1:06 left.
After the Bears got that close once again, senior Steven Pledger — who finished with 20 points — made two free throws and the Sooners held on for a 74-71 victory Wednesday night.
“Any time you can win on the road, you feel really good about it,’ Kruger said. “Didn’t handle the last few minutes as well as we’d like to, but we’ll learn from that as well. … Any time you play Baylor, they’re long and athletic and do a great job, and that makes you feel even better about the outcome.”
Big 12 scoring leader Pierre Jackson had 22 points for Baylor (14-6, 5-2 Big 12), but missed a 3-pointer with 3 seconds left. Isaiah Austin grabbed the rebound and flipped it to Brady Heslip, who stepped back for a shot that rattled off the rim as time ran out.
Heslip’s foot might have been on the line anyway.
“At the end of the day, we look at that shot. But we all know that it’s the 39 minutes and 58 seconds before that that usually determine a game,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said.
Amath M’Baye also scored 20 points for the Sooners (14-5, 5-2), who are tied with the Bears and Kansas State for second place in the Big 12. Romero Osby had 11 points.
Austin, the 7-foot-1 freshman, had 19 points and 20 rebounds, including 11 offensive boards. His 20 rebounds matched the most by a Big 12 player this season. Heslip had 11 points and A.J. Walton 10.
“Austin was such a big factor on the offensive boards, we just couldn’t keep him away from the ball,” Kruger said. “And yet Amath and Pledge and Ro, as they’ve been doing, have carried us throughout much of the ballgame and happy to see them to continue to shoot it well.”
M’Baye, Pledger and Osby combined to make 20 of 31 shots while the Sooners shot over 50 percent from the field for only the second time this season — 29 of 55 (53 percent).
Oklahoma trailed only once, when Cory Jefferson made a jumper only 1:19 into the game for a 4-2 Baylor lead. M’Baye scored the Sooners’ first seven points, his 3-pointer making it 7-4 before Heslip’s 3 for the last tie of the game.
“I was definitely really comfortable out there,” said M’Baye, who shot 9 of 12. “All the credit to my teammates the way they ran the plays — I was always getting the ball exactly where I needed to have it to score.”
The Sooners, who led by as many as 14 before halftime, were up 52-36 when M’Baye made a jumper with 13:29 left.
When Jackson had an assist on a layup by Austin with 3 1/2 minutes left, Baylor was within 61-56. But Hield responded with a 3-pointer and Pledger had a steal and drove for a layup when he got fouled, then made the free throw for a 67-56 lead.
Baylor then scored 10 in a row, including a 3-pointer by Heslip and steal by Jackson for a driving layup, before Hield’s bank shot.
“We’ve got to play like that the whole 40 minutes,” Walton said.
Jackson’s two free throws with 10 seconds left got Baylor within 72-71 before Pledger made two of his own.
“Steve wants the ball there late in the game. That’s the key for making free throws late, wanting to be there,” Kruger said. “Good to see him jump up there and knock down those last two.”
Baylor made 28 of 75 from the field (37 percent), and missed seven of its first 12 free throws before making four of the last five.
The Bears were within 21-20 early after Jackson grabbed a rebound and drove the length of the court for a layup with about 8 minutes left in the first half.
That came after a 1-minute span when Walton missed two free throws and Jackson missed the front end of a bonus situation while in between Austin had a shot blocked by M’Baye.
Osby had a layup on an alley-oop pass from Hield to start a 15-2 run that put the Sooners up 36-22.
Baylor had only one field goal in a span of more than 6 minutes. That was Austin tipping in his own miss — after the Sooners scored eight points in a row before that and the next seven afterward.
“We let a couple of their players almost have career nights on us,” Jackson said. “We didn’t adjust at all. That’s our fault.”
(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
Also Check Out: