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.

Tom Izzo’s point is valid, but he’s wrong about the new fouling rules

Eron Harris, Tom Izzo
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
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On Sunday night, after No. 3 Michigan State knocked off No. 23 Providence in the final of the Wooden Legacy, Spartans head coach Tom Izzo made sure to make his feelings known about the new college basketball officiating mandates.

He doesn’t like them.

At all.

“I just think we’re taking the flow of the game away,” Izzo said. “Maybe it’ll change. We’ll play by the same rules everybody else does. But I think I can voice my opinion to say that I don’t agree with it.”

Part of what frustrated Izzo was that, in a matchup between the two best players in college basketball, both Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn were sent to the bench with foul trouble.

“I didn’t like it either way,” Izzo said. “I didn’t like having Denzel on the bench, and I didn’t even like watching Dunn on the bench.”

“Don’t tweet this now and leave out the officials,” he added, according to CBSSports.com. “It’s not their fault. Because that’s the way they’re mandated to call them. So I am really either blaming the rules committee, which ends up on the coaches somewhat. So I’m looking in the mirror and blaming myself because I should have argued it more maybe. I just don’t think it’s fun to have these guys sitting.”

This is nothing new for Izzo. This was calculated. He basically said the same thing after Michigan State, then No. 1 in the country, beat Oklahoma in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic two seasons ago, when the rules committee tried to implement these same rules. It was his pushback that started the campaign to get rid of the freedom of movement rules.

But here’s the thing: we all knew this was going to happen. We knew there was going to be an adjustment period, for coaches and players and referees alike. In the long run, freedom of movement is good for basketball. It’s part of the reason the NBA is so much fun to watch these days, as their emphasis on the freedom of movement got us out of the days where the Detroit Pistons were¬†winning titles without scoring 80 points.

Physicality is ingrained in college basketball. Coaches teach defense a certain way. Players play defense a certain way. The guys in the NBA are stronger, but the style of play is much more physical in the college game than the pro game. That doesn’t change overnight.

It changes when those rules are enforced and those fouls are called, and, as a result, the players and coaches learn to adjust to them.

Kennesaw State blows eight-point lead in 16 seconds, loses to Elon

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Kennesaw State entered Monday night at 1-6 on the season, but with 19 seconds left, it looked like the Owls have their second of the season locked up. Kendrick Ray made a pair of free throws with 19 seconds left to put KSU up 89-81, and all they had to do was avoid a complete meltdown to get out with a win.

They couldn’t.

A Luke Eddy layup with 16 seconds left cut the lead to six, and after KSU’s Nigel Pruitt missed two free throws, Dainan Swoope his a three with seven seconds left to make the score 89-86.

On the ensuing inbounds, Kennesaw State threw the ball away … and then proceeded to foul Eddy when he was shooting a three. This is what that disaster looked like:

Eddy would hit all three threes before, shockingly, KSU turned the ball over again. Elon could not capitalize this time, sending the game to overtime, where the Phoenix outscored the Owls 14-4.

Elon won 104-94.

Here’s what the comeback looked like on the play-by-play:

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