Buddy Hield finished with 20 points, 10 boards and four assists and Tashawn Thomas had one of his best games as a Sooner, finishing with 24 points and eight boards, as No. 18 Oklahoma beat No. 22 Baylor, 73-63.
The Sooners did a great job of breaking down the Baylor zone. The way to beat the Bears is to get the ball to the baseline, allowing your front line to finish around the rim or kick the ball out to shooters when the defense collapses, and that’s exactly what they did. Thomas was 11-for-17 from the floor and Hield combined with Isaiah Cousins to score 39 points and hit nine threes.
Everyone knows about how good Hield is, but on Saturday we all got a glimpse of the two guys that will be the difference-makers for this team. It’s been written over and over again, but getting Thomas eligible was so important because it gave Lon Kruger another scorer — a more athletic one — along his front line. But the play of Cousins is key as well, as he’s one of the most improved players in the Big 12 conference and takes a lot of pressure off of Hield.
The Sooners trailed late in the first half, but they made the game-changing run early in the second half thanks to their defense, holding the Bears without a field goal for more than six minutes as they opened up a double-digit lead.
That’s been a major difference this season as well. The Sooners were not a very good defensive team last season, but as we enter the throes of conference play, the Sooners are No. 5 in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to Kenpom.
As far as Baylor is concerned, this was really their first chance to prove to the nation that they deserved their top 25 ranking, and it didn’t go as planned. Granted, they were playing on the road against a top three team in the league, but there are still some question marks about their back court play.
There should not longer be questions about big man Jonathan Motley, however. He finished with 24 points in the loss.