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Baylor's skill, size too much for OU

Big, the Sooners usually can handle. Good, the Sooners often can handle. But an opponent who is both big and good? Not a chance.
by Berry Tramel Published: March 13, 2014

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Big, the Sooners usually can handle. Good, the Sooners often can handle.

But an opponent who is both big and good? Not a chance.

Baylor is always big, and Thursday in the Big 12 quarterfinals, the Bears were good, too. They stunned the 17th-ranked Sooners 78-73, bursting to leads of 10-0, 37-23 and 52-31 before holding on during a frantic OU rally.

And that’s why all the talk about NCAA Tournament seedings is largely overrated. Want to know how far the undersized Sooners will go in the bracket? Don’t tell me where OU will be seeded. Tell me what kind of teams they will draw. Tell me how big is their foe.

Baylor’s 7-foot Isaiah Austin, 6-foot-9 primo athlete Cory Jefferson and burly Royce O’Neale combined for 44 points on 15-of-25 shooting and 26 rebounds. Their size produced easy baskets for the Bears and prevented the same from OU.

“Those guys are our key,” said Baylor point guard Kenny Chery. “We need them every day. And without them, what else can we do?  When we get broken down, we need them to block shots, we need them to contest shots or make shots harder, and that's what they did.”

But the big men helped Baylor’s offense as much as its defense. Baylor made 24 baskets. Five came on dunks, three were virtually uncontested layups and another was a tip-in. The Sooners had to shift concern to the paint, and Baylor responded by shooting a salty 7-of-14 on 3-pointers. Allow the vast majority of an opponent’s field goals on 3-pointers and easy shots at the basket, and a defense is doomed.

Meanwhile, the long arms of Baylor’s big men, out of a zone defense, cut off OU passing lanes. The Sooners weren’t aggressive; they attempted just seven foul shots, and when the Sooners did attack the lane, Austin was there to turn them back. He blocked five shots. That left the Sooners to hoist from long distance; OU made 12 of 35 3-point shots.

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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