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OU's Rally Not Enough to Top Baylor

March 14, 2014
INDIANA SPORTS PAGE



OKLAHOMA BASKETBALL RELEASE

Isaiah Austin scored 18 points and Baylor held on after blowing most of a 21-point lead for a 78-73 victory over No. 17 Oklahoma on Thursday night in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals.

Cory Jefferson added 14 points and 11 rebounds for the No. 7 seed Bears (23-10), who became the first lower-seeded team to win in this year's tournament. They advanced to face the winner of Texas-West Virginia in the semifinals on Friday night.

Cameron Clark scored 19 points and Buddy Hield had 15 for the second-seeded Sooners (23-9), who spent most of the second half frantically rallying from a 52-31 deficit.

They got within 72-68 on Hield's 3-pointer with 1:27 left, and had a chance to get even closer when Royce O'Neale turned it over for Baylor. But a 3-pointer by Jordan Woodard with about a minute left was off the mark, and O'Neal came through with a pair of free throws.

Oklahoma had a couple of open layups on the ensuing possession, but opted to toss it out to Clark for a 3-pointer. He missed it, the Sooners had to foul again and Brady Heslip -- one of the best free-throw shooters in the Big 12 -- knocked down two more to help the seal the win.

O'Neal wound up with 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Bears. Kenny Chery added 12 points and seven assists, and Heslip also finished with 12 points.

It was the ninth win in 10 games for Baylor, which has gone from NCAA tournament bubble to knocking on the door of the Big 12 title. The Bears are in the semifinals for the fifth time after ending a four-game skid against the Sooners that included a pair of losses this season.

The Sooners were tied for the Big 12 scoring lead at better than 82 points per game, but they shot just 38 percent in the first half and were thoroughly dominated on the glass.

Baylor took advantage of the cold start to score the game's first 10 points. It maintained that comfortable advantage until the closing minutes of the first half, then used a 10-2 run that helped the Bears carry a 47-31 lead into the locker room.

The lead grew to 21 points in the opening minutes of the second half, the Bears capping a surge with an alley-oop dunk by Austin that brought their smattering of fans to their feet.

Oklahoma finally started to show a pulse, though.

Isaiah Cousins hit a 3-pointer and Clark scored three straight baskets, the last on a stylish dunk in transition. By the time Tyler Neal scored on a nifty scoop shot in the paint, the Sooners had embarked on a 13-2 run.

The Bears answered with a flurry of their own, but a basket by Cousins with about three minutes left and a 3-pointer by Hield -- who had been 1 for 7 from the arc at that point -- got the Sooners within 69-64 and started to give coach Lon Kruger's boys reason to believe.

Baylor was solid from the foul line down the stretch, though, and will now try for its third win in as many days in Friday night's semifinal game.


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