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'We just have to be sharper': Sooners dominated by No. 2 Baylor, struggle shooting in lowest scoring game of season

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Brady Manek

Senior forward Brady Manek defends an opposing player during the Sooners' game against Baylor in Waco, Texas, Jan. 6.

As senior forward Brady Manek missed his third-straight 3-point attempt in the first four minutes of the game, he quickly clapped his hands and put his head down in frustration. 

It was a rough shooting night for the Sooners (6-3, 2-2 Big 12) in a 76-61 loss at No. 2 Baylor (10-0, 3-0 Big 12) on Wednesday. A slow start ruined their chances of winning, as they shot just 36 percent from the field and 17 percent from 3, en route to their lowest scoring game of the season. 

Oklahoma struggled from the start, while Baylor came out of the gate with a 16-2 run in the first seven minutes of the game. OU found itself in a hole that’s hard to come back from against a team with six regular players shooting over 42 percent from 3 this season. 

“They’re good,” head coach Lon Kruger said after the game. “They’re really good. (They have) a lot of weapons, but we gotta play better than we did to have a chance to compete with that high of a level.”

Baylor boasts the second-best offense in the country — averaging over 92 points per game — behind only No. 1 Gonzaga. The Bears’ offense also torches its opponents from the 3-point line with nation-leading 43.8 percent shooting. 

Despite entering play Wednesday averaging the second-most points per game in the Big 12 at just under 82, the Sooners’ offense didn’t hit 10 points until junior guard Umoja Gibson made a free throw with 9:30 left in the first half. 

“They’re very good defensively,” Kruger said. “They’ve got big, active bodies. If you’re not moving the ball, if you’re not cutting sharp, then they can make you stand, and that’s what they did to start the ball game. … They’ve got five guys that can guard the ball. 

“Even their big guys do a great job of sliding their feet and guarding the ball. They’ve got five good athletes on the floor pretty much all the time.”

The Sooners’ second half was a story of too little, too late, as they outscored Baylor, 36-34, behind 11 and 10 points from senior guard Austin Reaves and Manek, respectively. 

Manek’s second half was somewhat of a good bounce-back for the team following his recent struggles, after he scored just 9 points in the Sooners’ two previous games. Despite being hit in the mouth during a blocking foul in the first half, leaving the game briefly and receiving medical attention, Manek finished the contest with 10 points.

“Much better second half,” Kruger said. “(We) really needed that. Obviously (Manek) needs that. I thought he came out in the second half and did things he needed to do much better, and you hope that’s a good step for him.”

For the Sooners to better compete in one of the top conferences in college basketball — which houses five ranked teams — they’ll have to rely on players other than Manek and Reaves. The duo made 10 shots collectively Wednesday night, opposed to the rest of the team’s 12.

“There’s a simple answer to that.” Kruger said regarding the team’s scoring aside from his star seniors. “We just have to be sharper.”

“It’s a relentless schedule as we all know, (and) all have in the Big 12, and we’ve got to keep working to get better."

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