Oklahoma’s Trae Young has the explosiveness to ruin any Senior Night, but Baylor wouldn’t let him make the Ferrell Center his own personal playground.
After watching Young erupt for 44 points last month in Norman, the Bears held him to 18 points on seven of 20 shots and forced the freshman phenom to commit eight turnovers.
While Young struggled, the Bears found huge holes in Oklahoma’s defense for point blank shots all night in an 87-64 blowout as they secured a much needed win Tuesday in their quest for their fifth straight NCAA tournament berth.
Snapping a two-game losing streak, the Bears (18-12, 8-9) are alone in sixth place in the Big 12 heading into the final regular season game against Kansas State on Saturday in Manhattan. Seventh-place Oklahoma (17-12, 7-10) continued its freefall as it lost for the seventh time in the last eight games.
“After shoot-around the seniors stayed in the locker room and spoke for 10 minutes on what we wanted to accomplish and the leadership we needed,” said Baylor center Jo Lual-Acuil. “It came down to the seniors leading the group and everyone followed and had fun.”
It was the last game at the Ferrell Center for Baylor seniors Lual-Acuil, Manu Lecomte, Nuni Omot and Terry Maston, and they all made significant contributions.
In his 102nd career game for the Bears, Maston made the most of his first start as he hit 10 of 14 shots and scored 23 points while grabbing six rebounds.
“It was an honor and it felt a little weird being there at the start of the game,” Maston said. “At the end of the day, I’m glad I could provide and we could get a win. We have great 3-point shooters and guys who can score well inside.”
Lual-Acuil was a force inside as he amassed 17 points and 11 rebounds while Lecomte broke out of a two-game shooting slump by hitting six of 12 shots and scoring 16 points. Omot added nine points as the Bears shot 51.4 percent for their most lopsided Big 12 win of the season.
“I think you saw everybody wanting to play well for Senior Night,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew. “We played well on defense and forced 17 turnovers. Our activity on defense helped us get transition baskets.”
The Sooners, the nation’s second leading scoring team with 87 points per game through the weekend, shot just 37.7 percent and were six of 26 from 3-point range. Young couldn’t find a groove and he hit two of 11 3-point shots.
“The seniors had to lead today,” Lecomte said. “It’s been a tough year with a lot of ups and downs, and to go out like this at the Ferrell Center was great. Everyone was locked in. We did a great job defensively. We wanted to make Trae Young a driver and make it tough for him to finish over Jo.”
Scoring two quick baskets following the tipoff, it looked like Oklahoma was intent on another big scoring night like its 98-96 win over the Bears in Norman on Jan. 30.
But the Sooners scored just one more field goal in the next 15 minutes as the Bears opened up a 31-12 lead.
Trailing 5-0, Lual-Acuil got Baylor’s offense rolling with a pair of shots in the paint before Maston slipped inside for a basket for a 6-5 lead. Then Lual-Acuil stepped outside and drained a trey before Lecomte scored on a drive for an 11-10 edge.
As the Sooners kept missing shots, the Bears got hotter as the first half progressed. Omot passed inside to Maston for a slam and connected again to Maston for a layup. With Omot’s fall-away jumper, the Bears opened up an 18-10 lead.
After missing 15 straight shots, Oklahoma finally broke the drought when Young hit a floater to cut Baylor’s lead to 18-12.
But the Bears answered with 13 straight points as Mark Vital scored on a putback and a slam, King McClure scored on a pair of drives and Omot nailed his second 3-pointer with 3:50 remaining to open up a 31-12 lead. Vital nailed an outside shot to stretch Baylor’s halftime lead to 39-17.
After shooting just 20 percent in the first half, the Sooners finally found some offense as Young scored on a pair of drives and drilled a 3-pointer. With Christian James’ basket and free throw, Oklahoma cut Baylor’s lead to 50-35 with 13:46 remaining.
But that was as close as the Sooners would get as Maston took over with six of Baylor’s next seven baskets to open up a 65-38 lead.
There wasn’t much drama in the final minutes until walk-on Jonathan Davis came in and scored a basket with 1:12 remaining that sent the Baylor student section into a frenzy.