Sooners big road win at Baylor will loom even larger down the road

USA TODAY Sports

The Oklahoma men's basketball team is 4-3 in games played away from home this season, the second best road record in the Big 12.

The Baylor Bears were seven-point favorites and Oklahoma had come up empty in its last three trips to Waco heading into Wednesday's Big 12 midweek contest. Couple that with the fact that the Bears had won five of their past six games and four straight at home in the month of January, you would easily conclude that the Sooners had everything going against them in their quest to rebound from last weekend, when they lost their way in "The Phog" in a loss at league-leading Kansas.

So much for the validity of probability theory. The Sooners trailed only once, in the early moments at 4-2, and built up a 16-point lead six minutes into the second half. But things aren't always as they may seem in college basketball, where things have a way of changing quickly. And they did Wednesday night, as OU had to sustain a late Baylor charge to hang on for a 74-71 win.

Although the Sooners have dominated Baylor all-time, winning 38 of the 48 games between the two schools, the win on Wednesday in Waco, was just Oklahoma's third over the Bears in the last eight meetings. The improbable win at Baylor, considered one of the top teams in the conference entering the season, was bolstered by the Sooners' second-best shooting performance of the season.

Led by twin 20-point performances from Amath M'Baye and long-range artist Steven Pledger, OU shot 52.7 percent from the field for the game. In only one other game this season have the Sooners shot better: they shot 55.4 percent at Arkansas in December in a game they lost.

Oklahoma's 74 points in the game were 15 points higher than the 59-point average Baylor had been giving up in Big 12 action. The Bears lead the conference in scoring margin, outscoring their opponent by almost 10 point a game in their five Big 12 wins.

As big as the Baylor win was, it may have even bigger significance in the weeks ahead, as coach Lon Kruger's squad makes its bid for a high seed in the Big 12 Tournament and the Sooners' first postseason appearance in three years. OU has two conference road wins already and is undefeated at home at Lloyd Noble Center against three league opponents.

"Anytime you win on the road, you feel really good about it," Kruger said in his post-game comments. "Any win against the very good Baylor club makes it better. We didn't handle the last few minutes as well as we would've liked, but we'll learn from that."

Five away games remain on the Sooners' regular-season schedule, the two most difficult of which loom immediately ahead: at Iowa State on Saturday and the second game in this season's Bedlam basketball series, which is set for Stillwater on Feb. 16.

If the Sooners could manage a split in those next two road contests, they would be in real good position to close out the season in great shape, with three home games and three on the road games at Texas Tech, Texas and TCU, three teams that currently are a collective 2-12 in Big 12 home games in 2013.

Midway into the 2012-13 conference race, Oklahoma is 5-2 and tied for second place in the league and 14-5 overall. The Sooners are just one win away from equaling their win total from a year ago, both in the conference and in all games.

We'll know a lot more about this Oklahoma team after the next two Saturdays. During that span the Sooners will host Kansas State and Kansas at home and encounter Iowa State and archrival Oklahoma State away from Norman. After running that perilous gauntlet, OU should be ready for just about anything and anyone that comes its way as March Madness beckons.

For more information and news developments regarding Big 12 basketball, visit Big12Sports.com.

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