Lon Kruger, Buddy Hield

Oklahoma survives at Baylor, moves into tie for 2nd in the Big 12

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Oklahoma nearly blew a 16 point lead, but Baylor missed two chances at a game-tying three in the final seconds as the Sooners moved into a tie for second place in the Big 12 with a 74-71 win.

Despite getting 21 points and 21 rebounds from Isaiah Austin — who added 12 offensive boards — the Bears managed to dig themselves a massive hole in the second half. But with the lead at 11 and three minutes left in the game, they started chipping away while Oklahoma suddenly lost the ability to protect the ball in the back court.

Baylor twice cut the lead to one point, but was never able to get over the hump. After two Sooner free throws made the score 74-71 with 8.6 seconds left, Oklahoma tried to foul Pierre Jackson 45 feet from the basket. But Jackson — who finished with 22 points, nine boards and six assists — was quick enough to avoid the foul and got a three off. It bounced off the back of the rim, but Austin tipped the ball out to sharp-shooter Brady Heslip. He got a wide-open look at a three (that may have actually been a two and probably came after time expired, but that’s beside the point) that rimmed out and then hung on the front of the rim for about two seconds before falling to the floor.

The Sooners got 20 points apiece from Amath M’Baye and Steven Pledger, while Romero Osby chipped in with 11 points. Buddy Hield finished with just nine points but he seemed to make all of the big shots down the stretch.

This is an impressive win for Oklahoma, going into Waco and knocking off the Bears. It may sound counter-intuitive, but building a 16 point lead on the Bears and hanging on to win despite nearly blowing that lead on the road are both noteworthy accomplishments.

But this is just the start for Lon Kruger’s club. We’ll know what they’re all about in the next two weeks. They get another shot at both Kansas State and Kansas at home on the next two Saturdays, with a trip to Ames, IA, to take on Iowa State in a week. That comes on the heels of trips to Kansas State, Kansas and Baylor in their last four games.

The second best team in the Big 12 is going to be a question that we all argue about throughout the entire season, and there’s no reason to believe that Oklahoma can’t play their way there. I like this team. They are athletic, they have veterans coming off the bench, their bigs are a matchup nightmare and they have a number of different weapons that can score.

If the Sooners can get through this stretch at 7-4 or 8-3 in league play, they’ll have the inside track to the league’s No. 2 spot.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament chances take a major blow in loss to No. 16 SMU

SMU guard Nic Moore (11) shoots over Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
(AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
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Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.

The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.

It wasn’t pretty.

And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.

Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.

The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.

But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.

POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry

California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown: