NORMAN — Je'lon Hornbeak's grandmother saw her grandson's two front teeth chipped.
Sooner Nation saw a resilient Oklahoma team that was steady at the free-throw line, aggressive on defense and ledby a career-high 23 points from Sam Grooms in Oklahoma's 90-76 victory against Baylor on Saturday.
They saw Hornbeak's face hit the hardwood just eight minutes into the game and they saw his eventual return — because for these Sooners, playing with worn-off numbing medication is better than not playing at all.
“I got tangled with (Baylor's Gary) Franklin,” Hornbeak said just minutes before he left for the dentist. “They said it was in my best interest to stop my nerves from being exposed, especially if I really wanted to get my teeth back. ... I thought that was a good idea. By the time I came back down, the numbness had worn off. So I popped two Tylenol and went back in.”
It's just one adjustment of many the Sooners (18-8, 9-5) made on Saturday in their ninth Big 12 victory of the season. Cam Clark stepped in and grabbed two rebounds when Hornbeak went down. Grooms earned his second start at point guard, and the Sooners found a way to keep their rhythm and their minds through 57 fouls called.
The Sooners ended the first half on an 18-1 run, allowing only one point in the half's last 5:42. They went into the locker room ahead by 26.
Then came a second half when 36 fouls were called. Grooms, who shot a perfect 6 of 6 from the charity stripe in the first half, ended the night 15 of 17 from the line.
With a victory, the Bears could have tied Oklahoma in the Big 12 standings. Instead, Baylor got swept in the season series after doing the sweeping a season ago.
Pierre Jackson scored a game-high 28 points for Baylor (16-11, 7-7).
Grooms finished with three turnovers, two steals, four assists, two boards in addition to his team-high in points. Grooms also drained both 3-pointers he shot.
“If Sam was doing this 25 games ago, he'd have been starting for 25 games,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said.
Yet while one point guard has had his confidence boosted, Oklahoma's former starting freshman point guard Isaiah Cousins has had his confidence shaken.
Cousins played just nine minutes and committed three turnovers.
“We're going to work at it,” Grooms said about rebuilding Cousins' confidence. “We all still believe in him. ... We're going to pick him up as much as we can.
“I've been there before. ... We need him, pretty point blank.”
But the Sooners look like they need Grooms' offensive production and defensive aggressiveness too. In OU's last three games, Grooms has scored 53 points. The senior said his confidence starts with an ability to adjust.
“Every single day, Roe (Osby) tells me if I don't shoot the shots that I shoot in practice in the game, how are people actually going to respect me?” Grooms said.
“Tell them what else I tell you,” Osby chimed in.
Grooms just shook his head and smiled.
“Let it fly,” Osby said of his advice. “If you miss it, you miss it. If you make it, you make it. He works on his game too much to not make shots in the game.”