KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Baylor jumped out to an early lead and kept No. 17 Oklahoma at bay the rest of the way in a 78-73 victory Thursday in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals at Sprint Center.
Center Isaiah Austin led Baylor (23-10) with 18 points, and forward Cory Jefferson scored 14. All five Baylor starters scored at least 12 points. On Friday, the seventh-seeded Bears will face the winner of Thursday night’s quarterfinal between third-seeded Texas and sixth-seeded West Virginia.
Second-seeded Oklahoma (23-9) was led by forward Cameron Clark with 19 points and guard Buddy Hield with 15.
Oklahoma tried valiantly to catch Baylor but could get no closer than three points.
Down by 21 points at one point, the Sooners started their comeback with a 3-pointer by guard Isaiah Cousins. Clark hit two buckets. Guard Frank Booker hit another 3-pointer, and forward Tyler Neal made two buckets inside, sandwiched around a couple of made free throws by the Bears, and the deficit was down to nine before the midpoint of the half.
Baylor scored the next five points. The Sooners cut the lead to 69-64 on a 3-pointer by Hield with 2:34 remaining, but Baylor hit three of four free throws. Cousins hit one of three from the line before Hield hit another 3-pointer to cut it to 72-68.
Four consecutive free throws by the Bears pushed the lead to eight points before Oklahoma guard Jordan Woodard hit a bucket inside to cut it to 76-70 with 18 seconds left. After Baylor forward Royce O’Neale missed two free throws, Woodard hit a 3-point shot with 2.1 seconds left. Bears guard Brady Heslip’s two free throws provided the final margin.
Baylor, or more specifically, Austin, opened the second half on a hot streak. Austin scored the first seven points of the half on a variety of shots. He sank a 3-point shot to open the scoring. He followed with a dunk on an alley-oop. Finally, he showed his quickness with a turn-around jumper from the baseline.
The Bears scored the first 10 points of the game. Oklahoma cut the lead to four points with back-to-back 3-point shots by Booker and guard Je’lon Hornbeak, but Baylor answered with a quick 5-0 run to retake the comfortable lead.
The Bears moved in front 37-27, then concluded the half with a 10-4 run in the final 2:36 to take a 47-31 lead into the break.
Austin and Jefferson led Baylor with nine first-half points apiece. All five Bears starters had at least seven points in the half.
Hield topped Oklahoma with seven first-half points.
NOTES: Oklahoma’s balanced scoring attack features four starters averaging in double figures and the fifth, F Ryan Spangler, just a tick below at 9.9 points per contest. … Only three teams (Kansas, Arizona and Iowa State) had more than Baylor’s eight wins against top-50 RPI teams heading into Thursday’s action.. … The Bears won 20-plus games for the sixth time in seven years under coach Scott Drew. Baylor accomplished that feat only three times in history prior to Drew’s arrival.
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