KANSAS CITY, Mo. — What happened to Oklahoma Thursday in Sprint Center was not an ambush. Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger warned his team repeatedly that facing Baylor for a third time this season would present a different challenge.
“Before the game, Coach was really trying to get into our heads, ‘Yeah, we beat ‘em twice, but we did that because we were the tougher team, we were the aggressor. It’s not just gonna happen the third time,’” OU forward Tyler Neal recalled Thursday night. “He did a good job of stressing that. I think we maybe should have taken that more seriously. Maybe that first half would have been a little different.”
Maybe the 17th-ranked Sooners (23-9) would have been preparing to face Texas for a third time Friday instead of busing back home after the 78-73 loss to the Bears Thursday night.
The loss isn’t going to damage OU’s NCAA tournament hopes. It closed the regular season as a likely No. 5 seed for March Madness. There likely isn’t a penalty for Thursday’s loss. The conference tournament was an opportunity to move up.
However, that window closed after the Sooners’ timid first-half performance dug a massive hole they couldn’t escape.
The first-half effort and execution, when OU fell behind by double digits and allowed Baylor (23-10) to get extremely comfortable, was why OU left the Big 12 tournament with some regrets.
“We didn’t do what we’re supposed to do. We came out relaxed like we had the game and we should never have that mentality in our head that we have a game like that. We’ve just got to go out there and just execute and be ready and have that mindset to go in and pop them first,” OU guard Buddy Hield said. “Obviously we didn’t really do what we said we were going to do, we just talked it and never did it and they did it.”