Baylor (16-10) at Oklahoma (17-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 23, 5 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Lloyd Noble Center (12,000) -- Norman, Oklahoma. Television: ESPN U. Home Record: Baylor 11-4, OU 9-2. Away Record: Baylor 3-5, OU 5-5. Neutral Record: Baylor 2-1, OU 3-1. Conference Record: Baylor 7-6, OU 8-5. Series Record: Oklahoma leads, 38-10.
GAME NOTES: Attempting to halt a two-game slide, the Baylor Bears roll into the Lloyd Noble Center on Saturday afternoon for a Big 12 Conference clash with the Oklahoma Sooners.
Despite its winning record both overall (16-10) and in the Big 12 (7-6), Baylor has been trending in the wrong direction in recent weeks with losses in five of its last seven games. After suffering an 81-61 defeat at the hands of nationally-ranked Kansas State last Saturday, the Bears returned home on Wednesday night only to fall to Iowa State, 87-82.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma has played well of late, bouncing back from a pair of losses to open the month of February by winning three of four, most recently dismissing Texas Tech on the road on Wednesday, 86-71. The Sooners sit a 17-8 overall and at 8-5 in conference, which has them two games out of first place with five bouts left in the regular season.
Baylor swept Oklahoma in the season series during the 2011-12 campaign, but the Sooners won the first matchup this year, 74-71, in Waco on Jan. 30, to extend their lead in the all-time series to 38-10.
Baylor had a strong offensive performance earlier in the week, netting greater than 48 percent of its field goal attempts, but it was bested by Iowa State, which shot 54.2 percent from the floor and connected on 11 3-pointers. Pierre Jackson was outstanding in defeat, shooting 13-of-19 from the field for 30 points while also dishing out eight assists. Cory Jefferson was strong in the paint, tallying 15 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks.
On the season, the Bears own the Big 12's second-ranked scoring offense with 75.2 ppg, and while their scoring defense has been sound as well (64.8 ppg), they have allowed 77.4 ppg in their last five losses. Jackson is making a case for Big 12 Player of the Year, as he ranks first in scoring (18.9 ppg) and assists (6.4 apg) while also logging 1.6 spg. Freshman center Isaiah Austin not only does the dirty work down low (13.4 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 1.4 bpg), but he can also stretch the floor as evidenced by his 22 3-pointers. Jefferson has been solid as well in the frontcourt with 12.2 ppg (.588 FG percentage), 8.3 rpg and 2.0 bpg.
Oklahoma carried an eight-point lead into halftime against Texas Tech earlier in the week, and its advantage was never in question from there. Not only did the team shoot better than 53 percent from the field, with five players in double figures, but it dominated the rebounding battle, 39-29, as well. Steven Pledger was active from beyond the arc (6-of-13) on his way to 22 points, while Romero Osby was a beast down low with 21 points and nine rebounds. Amath M'Baye tallied 15 points, 13 rebounds and five assists, while Sam Grooms (12 points) and Cameron Clark (10 points) both contributed off the bench.
The Sooners rank in the middle of the pack in the Big 12 both in terms of scoring offense (69.1 ppg) and scoring defense (64.1 ppg), and while their numbers may not match up with the conference's elite, their +5.0 scoring margin has been good enough to render the season a success thus far. Osby is the catalyst, registering 14.2 ppg and 7.0 rpg while shooting better than 50 percent from the field. Pledger (11.3 ppg) is the top threat out on the perimeter, especially with Buddy Hield (8.6 ppg) out with a broken foot. M'Baye adds 10.5 ppg and 5.8 rpg to the mix.
In terms of pure talent, Baylor has Oklahoma's number, as it has some of the league's premier playmakers both inside and out, but the Bears have been sliding lately and they have been especially vulnerable away from home. The Sooners don't do much to wow people, but they are efficient and fundamentally sound, and at home, they should continue their strong late-season push.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Oklahoma 74, Baylor 71
02/23 10:42:42 ET