WACO, Texas — Oklahoma went toe-to-toe with Baylor Tuesday night. It kept clinging to a belief that a couple of baskets; a couple of stops and a stunning upset was on the table.
It was there for the taking. The Sooners couldn’t grab it in a 74-61 loss to the Bears.
“The guys that played gave everything they had. They fought,” OU coach Jeff Capel. “We got ourselves in position where we had an opportunity down the stretch.”
The stretch arrived in the final three minutes. The Bears (12-3, 2-0 Big 12) took off. The Sooners (8-8, 0-2) stayed grounded.
Baylor freshman forward Perry Jones, who many believe could be a top five pick in this year’s NBA draft if he makes himself available, was too much for OU to handle. He scored 25 points, pulled down 13 rebounds and provided several of the “Wow!” plays the Sooners used to get from Blake Griffin.
“He certainly played like that,” Capel said of Jones.
There was little doubt Jones was the best player on the floor and OU tried to match up against a more athletic Baylor team shorthanded. Senior guard Cade Davis, who is averaging 13.1 points per game and a team-high 36.2 minutes, was in uniform, but did not play due to the death of his grandmother earlier in the day.
His teammates did elevate their games.
Steven Pledger, who was 5-for-10 from 3-point range, scored 17 points and Cameron Clark finished with 16.
“We know what he’s going through,” Pledger said of Davis. “We just had to come and play hard for him.”
Despite trailing throughout the game, effort wasn’t a problem for the Sooners. Four times in the second half OU had the Bears’ lead trimmed to one possession and only trailed by five with 6 minutes to go.
But OU couldn’t come up with the stops it needed or the rebounds to really threaten the Bears. Only a dominant shot blocker can alter a player like Jones’ path. OU doesn’t have one.
Jones’ final two baskets came on dunks in the final 90 seconds. The baskets were indicative of OU’s defensive struggles. The Bears shot 62.2 percent (28-for-45) and were 23-for-32 inside the 3-point arc. Jones was 10-for-13 from the field. LaceDarius Dunn, who added 16 points, was 6-for-9.
Turnovers were what allowed the Sooners to stay in the game. It forced 17 and turned them into 27 points.
Two of those Baylor turnovers came in the final minute of the first half and helped propel the Sooners on a 9-0 run.
Carl Blair, Pledger and Clark all connected on 3-pointers to slice the Bears’ lead to a 36-32.
“We had a couple opportunities to stretch the lead in the first half, but we just didn’t do it,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said.
The Sooners, who still haven’t won a Big 12 Conference game in 11 months, had opportunities to crumble. They didn’t do that.
It was the positive the Sooners took from the loss.
“We just have to use this as a positive,” Sooner forward Andrew Fitzgerald said. “Even though we lost, and it’s killing me that we lost, but we played as hard as we could.”
“We had too many mistakes, too many offensive rebounds for Baylor, too many and-1 plays for them and, quite frankly, too much Perry Jones,” Capel said. “But if we fight like we did — and the mistakes that we made are correctable — if we have this kind of effort and the practices that we had leading up to it, I like our chances going forward.”
John Shinn 366-3536 email@example.com