NORMAN — Amath M'Baye lived Bedlam from the bench last season. He was getting antsy to live it on the court.
“On the way back from West Virginia” last weekend, M'Baye said, “as I stepped back on the bus, I was excited about this game.”
It showed. M'Baye scored 15 points, including seven straight down the stretch to blow open the game and give the Sooners a 77-68 basketball victory over OSU on Saturday at Lloyd Noble Center.
“I always love rivalry games in the Big 12,” M'Baye said.
That's a good description. OU-OSU hoops remains a rivalry game. It's just not Bedlam anymore.
This was a far cry from Bedlam's salad days. It was not Desmond Mason vs. Eduardo Najera. Not Big Country vs. Ryan Minor. Not Billy and Eddie or Eddie and Kelvin.
But at least it was two teams with NCAA Tournament hopes. That's more than we've seen in recent years.
It was not high-caliber basketball, at least from the Cowboys. They shot 39 percent from the field and afterward admitted to not playing hard enough. You never heard that after a Sutton/Sampson game.
“I didn't think we played with a sense of urgency,” State coach Travis Ford said. “You gotta compete from the time that ball's thrown up.”
The Cowboys were stagnant on offense (12 points the first 13 minutes) and slack on defense (the Sooners scored 27 points on 14 3-point shots, counting fouls).
But at least OSU rallied. The Cowboys cut a 47-33 deficit to 52-50 with 9:34 left in the game, and you thought Bedlam might return.
Then the Sooners scored nine points on their next three possessions — Steven Pledger and Buddy Hield 3-pointers sandwiched three Pledger foul shots. Though OSU hung tough, M'Baye's three straight baskets, ignited by his first 3-pointer of the season, ended the drama.
And maybe gave Lon Kruger his most important victory in 1 1/2 OU seasons. The 11-3 Sooners are 2-0 in the Big 12 and strengthened their NCAA Tournament resume' against a team that's spent most of the season in the top 25.
Hield made his Bedlam debut with 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting, five assists and four rebounds in 37 minutes.
“Lot different,” Hield said of the game's feel. “Fans more into it. Happy to be a part of it.”
Stick around long enough, and Hield, who is quite the blossoming freshman, will see an even better rivalry.
This crowd was energetic but numbered somewhere around 8,700. There were 4,000 no-shows.
I promise you, there weren't 4,000 unused tickets when Byron Houston went against Brent Price.
It will take awhile to get Bedlam back to where it belongs, but Kruger is doing his part. His Sooners are in the process of getting back to where they belong.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.