WACO, Texas — Play like this the rest of the season, and the Sooners won’t have to worry about finishing at the bottom of the Big 12.
Oklahoma didn’t win Tuesday night at the Ferrell Center. But the Sooners stayed within striking range much of the game before Baylor freshman sensation Perry Jones and the Bears finally pulled away for a 74-61 win.
Projected by some to be the No. 1 pick in this summer’s NBA Draft, Jones scored a career-high 25 points to give a row of pro scouts plenty to scribble on notepads.
After going behind his back with a dribble on a fast break late in the game, OU coach Jeff Capel walked toward NBA scouts and muttered “Wow! Did you see that?”
“There’s no denying his talent,” Capel said. “There are a lot of things he can do. He can pass it. He can shoot it. Post moves. Freak athlete. Long. Athletic. He’s going to be a very good one. If he stays hungry and humble he has a chance to be special.”
A lean 6-foot-11 freshman who must add strength to succeed at the next level, Jones represented the Bears’ athletic and size advantages.
Despite obvious mismatches, the Sooners kept the game close until the final few minutes.
“They’re just more talented. Let’s be honest,” Capel said. “The guy they say could be the No. 1 pick played like it. And you have a guy (LaceDarius Dunn) who might become the all-time leading scorer in Big 12 history. You have two guys like that, it’s pretty good.”
Playing without senior guard Cade Davis, who watched from the bench after learning earlier in the day his grandmother died, OU never led but hit three 3-pointers late in the first half to trail 36-32 at halftime.
The Sooners were down 55-51 midway through the second half and 62-57 with just over six minutes left.
“We played hard,” said Steven Pledger, who scored a team-high 17 points. “We can definitely build off this. We play like this every night we’re going to win games.”
The Sooners (8-8, 0-2 in league play) kept a crowd of 7,572 antsy, best evidenced by Baylor coach Scott Drew calling timeouts three times to stop OU’s momentum.
“We made some mistakes but they’re correctable,” Capel said. “If we have this kind of effort and practices like we had leading up to it, I like our chances going forward.”
OU kept the game competitive with a 27-11 edge in points off turnovers to help offset Baylor’s 44-24 edge in the paint.
“I don’t like that we lost but there was some positives,” said forward Andrew Fitzgerald.
Baylor (12-3, 2-0) is riding a record 15-game Ferrell Center winning streak, is 10-0 at home this season and 25-1 at home the past two seasons.
“I’m really proud of my team,” Capel said. “Without Cade, our most experienced guy, our first Big 12 road game that hurt us a little bit. But the guys that played gave us everything they had. We had opportunities down the stretch but had too many mistakes.”