By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
When Baylor's five seniors got together before Tuesday's Senior Night game at the Ferrell Center, they talked about what they wanted to accomplish and the type of leadership required to beat the Oklahoma Sooners.
Check and check.
Led by Terry Maston's 23 points in his first start and 102nd career game, the Bears (18-12, 8-9) padded their NCAA Tournament resume with a convincing 87-64 win over the sliding Sooners (17-12, 7-10) before a crowd of 7,334.
"When coaches think of Senior Nights, that's what they think of," said Baylor coach Scott Drew, whose team improved to 6-2 in the second half of conference play after a 2-7 start. "Seniors winning, all playing well, all contributing, all being able to have a great last memory. To hold OU to 19 in the first half, I think the last time Trae (Young) had more than that by himself when we played."
Baylor had five players in double figures, including Jo Lual-Acuil recording his 13th double-double of the season with 17 points and 11 rebounds, and the five seniors accounted for 67 of the Bears' 87 points.
"It's been a great year, a tough year, a lot of ups and downs," said senior point guard Manu Lecomte, who finished with 16 points, four assists and only one turnover. "To go out like that, the last game in the Ferrell, it's just great."
As efficient as the Bears were on offense, shooting 51.4 percent from the floor (36-of-70), knocking down four 3-pointers and going a cool 85 percent from the line (11-of-13), it was the defense that carried the day.
Young, a leading candidate for National Freshman of the Year who came in leading the nation in points (28.3) and assists (9.1) per game, scored 44 in OU's 98-96 win in Norman last month. This time, Baylor held him to just six first-half points and 18 for the game on 7-of-20 shooting, and he had eight of the Sooners' 17 turnovers.
"The first half, we didn't want to give them any open shots," Lecomte said. "You want to contest every shot they take. And especially with Trae, you want to make him a drive. That was the game plan, and we did great. King (McClure), Jake (Lindsey), myself, we just sent him to Big Jo, and it's tough to finish over him. It was a great plan, and we executed pretty well."
Oklahoma shot a dismal 5-of-25 in the first and trailed 39-19 at the break. The Bears went on a 22-2 run to break it open.
"They dictated from the start in every phase of the game," Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. "That's not something we feel good about. We've got to respond a lot better than we did. . . . We were pretty much poor in every phase. We had some looks early that didn't go, and I think bothered us a little bit. We had trouble finishing at the room, and loose balls and rebounds, I thought Baylor clearly dominated those areas."
Even though the Sooners did pull within 15 a little over six minutes into the second half, Baylor never left the door even slightly open. When Christian James had a three-point play to make it 50-35, the Bears answered with a 13-1 run and stretched it to 63-36 on a Lecomte trey.
Drew credited the Baylor defense for being "really active," forcing 17 turnovers and holding the Sooners to 37.7 percent shooting for the game and just 6-of-26 from outside the arc.
"There were some shots they had that were decent looks that they missed. Like the free throws they missed early, that's not our defense," Drew said. "But our activity, and then when you miss one or two and you've got a defense flying around, it's difficult to get in rhythm."
In his first start, Maston picked up three fouls in the first half and had just six points at the break. But in the second half, he scored 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting, finishing with his fifth 20-point game of the season and sixth of his career.
"It felt a little weird being out there at the beginning of the game," he said. "But at the end of the day, I'm just glad we got the win and I could provide whatever my team needed."
With the crowd chanting, "JD! JD! JD!" Drew put in the 6-6 forward with 1:35 left in the game, and he immediately scored on a driving layup.
Lecomte said the win gives the Bears a "better chance of going to the (NCAA) tournament . . . but for us, every game is a must win."
"We have one more game against K-State," he said, referring to Baylor's regular-season finale at 1 p.m. Saturday in Manhattan. "As long as we bring the same mentality and the same intensity and energy and unselfishness, we're going to be all right."
Depending on the outcome of Saturday's games, the Bears could be as high as the 5 seed and no worse than the 7 seed for next week's Big 12 Championship in Kansas City.
"We had so much at stake also, big picture-wise," Drew said. "But first and foremost, they wanted to play well for the seniors and let them have a great memory here."