By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — After Oklahoma’s 74-71 victory at Baylor on Wednesday night, the celebration was subdued. It was a happy plane flight back to Norman from Waco, Texas, because it was the kind of victory the Sooners have rarely acquired the last four seasons.
However, it wasn’t like something out of the blue occurred.
“We came into this game expecting to win; it’s not like we were hoping to win it. We expected to win this one,” said forward Amath M’Baye after his 20-point performance. “I like it when the expectations are high like this. If we keep working like we’ve been doing, we should get good results.”
The stunner associated with the win, which lifted the Sooners to 14-5 overall and 5-2 in the Big 12 Conference, was that it came away from home on a night when leading scorer — Romero Osby — didn’t light up the Ferrell Center. He finished with 11 points and eight rebounds.
Most teams don’t win big games when their No. 1 scoring option struggles to get points.
With M’Baye and Steven Pledger both putting together 20-point performances and freshman guard Buddy Hield making a couple of incredibly clutch shots in the final four minutes, it meant Osby didn’t have to.
“Pledge had a great first half, which it really makes a difference when he’s making shots like that. Then Amath had a terrific night as well,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “This is a club. Ro has been the cornerstone, but at different times different guys have stepped up and contributed. Last night, we needed that.”
The Sooners will need more team-wide performances like that heading forward. They’re currently tied for second in the league with Baylor and No. 18 Kansas State. Staying in the spot underneath No. 2 Kansas in the standings will require a victory over the Wildcats (16-4, 5-2) at 5 p.m. Saturday at Lloyd Noble Center.
The game will also be a turning point in the Sooners’ season because it marks their second game against the Wildcats. (OU lost, 69-60, in the first meeting Jan. 19 in Manhattan, Kan.) Every team it faces the rest of the regular season — with the exception of TCU — will be a return game.
The second time against conference opponents means the secrets have all been revealed. Both teams are very familiar with the personnel. Opponents are calling out plays seconds after point guards call them out. Tendencies are exploited throughout the game.
If the real scoring options don’t go beyond No. 1 and No. 2, it can get ugly really quick.
No one was happier to see his teammates step up on Wednesday than Osby.
“This was a team effort, and it has to be like that,” he said. “Teams are going to game plan for me and Pledge, but when you have five, six, seven guys stepping up, you can’t stop that many guys.”
Baylor couldn’t and OU got a huge road victory because of it. As long as the contributions continue to run as deep as they did Wednesday, the Sooners have a lot more wins coming their way.
Follow me @john_shinn
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