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Oklahoma survives at Baylor, moves into tie for 2nd in the Big 12

Jan 30, 2013, 9:28 PM EDT

Lon Kruger, Buddy Hield

Oklahoma nearly blew a 16 point lead, but Baylor missed two chances at a game-tying three in the final seconds as the Sooners moved into a tie for second place in the Big 12 with a 74-71 win.

Despite getting 21 points and 21 rebounds from Isaiah Austin — who added 12 offensive boards — the Bears managed to dig themselves a massive hole in the second half. But with the lead at 11 and three minutes left in the game, they started chipping away while Oklahoma suddenly lost the ability to protect the ball in the back court.

Baylor twice cut the lead to one point, but was never able to get over the hump. After two Sooner free throws made the score 74-71 with 8.6 seconds left, Oklahoma tried to foul Pierre Jackson 45 feet from the basket. But Jackson — who finished with 22 points, nine boards and six assists — was quick enough to avoid the foul and got a three off. It bounced off the back of the rim, but Austin tipped the ball out to sharp-shooter Brady Heslip. He got a wide-open look at a three (that may have actually been a two and probably came after time expired, but that’s beside the point) that rimmed out and then hung on the front of the rim for about two seconds before falling to the floor.

The Sooners got 20 points apiece from Amath M’Baye and Steven Pledger, while Romero Osby chipped in with 11 points. Buddy Hield finished with just nine points but he seemed to make all of the big shots down the stretch.

This is an impressive win for Oklahoma, going into Waco and knocking off the Bears. It may sound counter-intuitive, but building a 16 point lead on the Bears and hanging on to win despite nearly blowing that lead on the road are both noteworthy accomplishments.

But this is just the start for Lon Kruger’s club. We’ll know what they’re all about in the next two weeks. They get another shot at both Kansas State and Kansas at home on the next two Saturdays, with a trip to Ames, IA, to take on Iowa State in a week. That comes on the heels of trips to Kansas State, Kansas and Baylor in their last four games.

The second best team in the Big 12 is going to be a question that we all argue about throughout the entire season, and there’s no reason to believe that Oklahoma can’t play their way there. I like this team. They are athletic, they have veterans coming off the bench, their bigs are a matchup nightmare and they have a number of different weapons that can score.

If the Sooners can get through this stretch at 7-4 or 8-3 in league play, they’ll have the inside track to the league’s No. 2 spot.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.