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Oklahoma Sooners Basketball: OU nearly stuns No. 1 Baylor only to fall short, 61-57

Oklahoma was competitive all night, but couldn't seal the deal down the stretch.

NCAA Basketball: Oklahoma at Baylor Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

The Oklahoma Sooners kept it more than respectable for much of the night as junior guard Austin Reaves had a chance to take the lead in the final seconds, but in the end the No. 1 Baylor Bears (16-1, 6-0) proved to be too talented, too experienced and simply too much en route to a 61-57 win. With the loss, OU falls to 12-6 on the season, 3-3 in Big 12 play.

Despite the close final score, Baylor essentially won this game on the boards. In the first half alone, the Bears out-rebounded the Sooners, 25-14, including a 12-2 edge on the offensive end of the court. While both teams shot a similar percentage from the field over the game’s opening 20 minutes, the top-ranked team in D-I took 13 more attempts from the floor than OU. Offensive rebounding has a lot to do with being in the right place at the right time, but it has even more to do with effort and awareness, two areas Oklahoma struggled with compared to its competition on Monday night.

Like most of Oklahoma’s games, this contest was a tale of two halves. In the first, Baylor controlled the pace with offensive rebounding, paint scoring and lockdown defense. The Bears held the Sooners to just 24 points over the first 20 minutes of the game, and took an 11-point lead into halftime.

The second half was almost an entirely different script for both squads, as OU found more of a rhythm on offense and BU seemingly played with less energy on each end. Junior forward Brady Manek elevated his game to another level, and senior forward Kristian Doolittle finally entered the chat, so-to-speak, scoring all eight of his points in the back half of the game. After trailing by as many as 11, the Sooners managed to fight back to within two on two separate occasions, the final of which resulted in a Reaves missed three with under 10 seconds remaining.

Speaking of Doolittle, he picked a bad night to have his second-lowest scoring output of the season, but you have to credit Baylor coach Scott Drew for dialing up the defense against Oklahoma’s best player. Still, in a game of this magnitude, the Sooners need Doo to produce more than eight points on 4-14 shooting.

On a more positive note, the aforementioned Manek followed up his career-high 31-point performance on Saturday with an equally impressive 21-point night against one of the best defensive teams in the nation. In addition to shooting 4-8 from beyond the arc, the Harrah native recorded 10 rebounds and four steals.

Up next, Oklahoma takes a break from conference play to take part in the seventh annual Big 12/SEC Challenge on Saturday, Jan. 25. This year, the Sooners will square off against the Mississippi State Bulldogs (11-6, 2-3) inside Chesapeake Energy Arena — home of the Oklahoma City Thunder. OU is 4-2 over the previous six seasons in this inter-conference series, including a win over Vandy in ‘19. Tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m. CT on ESPN/2/U.

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