NORMAN — Two weeks ago, Oklahoma probably would’ve lost to Baylor. A week ago, there probably would’ve been a different outcome than Saturday’s 66-64 victory over the 12th-ranked Bears.
Through the first 16 games, OU just wasn’t good enough defensively to overcome an awful shooting half like the one it experienced in the opening 20 minutes of Saturday at the Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas.
But that’s why this past week was a seminal week for the 25th-ranked Sooners (14-4, 3-2 Big 12). The second half of Tuesday’s loss at Kansas State, coupled with the performance against the Bears, is the best defense they’ve played all season.
“I thought the second half at Kansas State was a start,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “A couple good days of practice transferred pretty good today. Playing good clubs every night out so we've got to keep getting better especially on that end of the floor.”
Over the last six quarters, the shooting percentage OU has allowed is 41.2 percent (45 for 109) and the 3-point percentage defense has dropped 32.1 percent (9 for 28).
Against Baylor, it was what allowed OU to win on a day it shot just 39.3 percent and get a 1-1 road split during a week the Sooners shot just 36.0 percent during the two games.
The defensive leap came at the perfect time. Saturday’s victory allowed OU to get through a brutal part of the Big 12 schedule, where it played its first five games against the four teams that had been ranked conference play started — Kansas, Iowa State, Kansas State and Baylor — as well as Texas.
Kansas currently leads the conference at 4-0. Kansas State is second at 4-1. The Sooners are tied with Oklahoma State and Texas at 3-2. The Cyclones are 2-3 and Baylor is a disappointing 1-3.
The win Saturday, staying above .500 and braving what appears to be the toughest 21⁄2 week stretch of the season is a momentum boost.