NORMAN — Two teams heading in opposite directions met at Lloyd Noble Center on Saturday. Oklahoma’s 90-76 victory over Baylor was a classic case of a team progressing and another being stuck in a rut.
The Sooners, who improved to 18-8 overall and 9-5 in the Big 12 Conference, simply weren’t the team the Bears (16-11, 7-7) thought they would be.
Seven minutes into the game, OU point guard Sam Grooms had the ball just outside the 3-point line. Baylor guard Pierre Jackson dropped back deep in the paint.
The old book on Grooms said he wouldn’t take the shot.
“When he backed off, it caught me off guard a little bit because I had made a couple shots before and in the last game or whatnot,” Grooms said.
The 3-pointer he sank registered the first of a career-high 23 points for the Sooner point guard.
It shouldn’t have been a surprise. Over the last three games (at Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Baylor), Grooms is averaging 17.7 points.
It stunned the Bears.
“He was just aggressive,” Jackson said of Grooms. “He did not think twice about shooting some of those shots he does not usually take and he knocked them down.”
It didn’t take OU long to knock the Bears out. The Sooners never trailed and led by double digits for the last 25 minutes.
Pledger scored 17 points in the first half and was 7 for 9 from the field. Romero Osby added 17 point and eight rebounds and freshman guard Je’lon Hornbeack added 13 points despite chipping his two front teeth in the first half.
The Sooners’ 47-21 advantage was their largest lead of the season.
“I thought the first half we were pretty good offensively and maybe a little better defensively,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “I thought we opened the game focused. They’ve done a great job of getting each other ready to play, and I thought they did that again today.”
The Sooners played like a team that desperately wants to solidify themselves as an NCAA Tournament team. Saturday’s win was their third in the last four games. Baylor dropped its third straight.
“I want to start by apologizing to Baylor Nation. Worst job of coaching I've done this year in the first half,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “I apologize for the team's effort and lack of focus and intensity in the first half. Baylor deserves better than that.”
By the second half, it was no longer a matter of if the Sooners were going to win; it was a matter of by how much.
Grooms wound up scoring 15 points from the free-throw line as players kept fouling him under the assumption that he’d miss.
Grooms was shooting 57.6 percent from the free-throw line when the day began. He walked out of Lloyd Noble Center shooting 68 percent. He also made both his 3-point attempts to make him 3 for 6 for the season.
All were shots Baylor were begging him to take.
Jackson, who leads the Big 12 in scoring, led the Bears with 28 points. Isaiah Austin added 15 and Brady Heslip finished with 11. That’s about what that trio has averaged all season.
Grooms, however, has upped his game.
“Eventually, the stuff I’ve been working on in practice and my off time had to show up,” Grooms said. “It just happened to show up tonight.”
The Sooners are a team still making progress. Baylor, well, it’s experiencing a different team.
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