KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s hard to beat a team three times for several reasons. The most glaring was on display Thursday night at Sprint Center.
No. 17 Oklahoma played like a squad that had swept Baylor during the regular season. The Sooners’ problem: the Bears changed.
The 78-73 loss to the Bears, which forced a one-day stay in the Big 12 tournament for the third straight year, bared little resemblance to the regular-season meetings.
Baylor (23-10) was a struggling team when it lost to OU by 16 points on Feb. 8 at Lloyd Noble Center. It had won eight of nine games since, shifting from one of the league’s biggest busts to hottest teams.
The hot squad showed up Thursday night. Forward Isaiah Austin dominated on both ends of the floor, scoring 18 points, blocking five shots and turning OU into a paranoid team whenever he was on the floor.
He was certainly in Ryan Spangler’s head.
In the opening minutes, OU guard Isaiah Cousins hit Spangler on a back-door cut. The potential layup turned into Austin’s first blocked shot of the night.
“All week we worked on getting on two feet and pump faking, but I don’t think we did that today like we practiced,” Spangler said. “So I think the things that we practiced, we need to bring to the game.”
Would have helped.
Challenging Austin would have shown that the Sooners (23-9) came ready for a battle. The Bears were ready for one. They never trailed and were up by as many 21 points early in the second half.
Cory Jefferson scored 14 points and yanked down 11 rebounds (eight in the first half) and Royce O’Neale also finished with a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Baylor guards Kenny Chery and Brady Heslip also added 12 points each.
All had an edge Baylor lacked when it faced the Sooners in February.