Oklahoma (11-3, 1-1 Big 12) fell to No. 1 Baylor (14-0, 2-0) 84-74 Tuesday night in Waco.
Bears guards James Akinjo and Adam Flagler combined for 49 points while redshirt senior forward Tanner Groves led OU with 13 points.
Here are five final takeaways from the Sooners’ loss:
Bears dominate boards
Oklahoma was out-rebounded 34-16 by the top-ranked Bears. Baylor had three players with six rebounds including senior forward Flo Thamba, senior guard Matthew Mayer and junior forward Tchamwa Tchatchuoa.
“We came in here and we got crushed in the rebounding,” OU head coach Porter Moser said. “I mean, that’s the story… The 18 (rebound difference) on the glass. We talked about how good they were on the free throws, they’re relentless. They’re relentless with size, athletic ability and heart.”
“They do a really good job. If they have position, they're going to grab it. If you block them out, then they're going to tip it back. It's a lethal combination.”
Senior forward Tanner Groves had the Sooners’ lone rebound in nearly the last 16 minutes of the first half. The Bears grabbed 12 offensive rebounds while OU only managed to bring down three.
“We’ve out-rebounded teams like Arkansas and Florida in the past and they were bigger than us,” said junior forward Jalen Hill. “I think it's just our mind and our grit. We’ve just got to be tougher at the end of the day, just go up and grab them.”
OU has struggled taking care of the ball all season long and Tuesday night was no different. The Sooners finished the game with 17 turnovers which led to 17 Baylor points. In four of its last five games, OU has turned the ball over 15 or more times.
Decision-making comes with experience and more playing time alongside teammates, something OU lacks. Moser’s group is filled with transfers and freshmen that are playing meaningful minutes including Tanner Groves and junior forward Jacob Groves, redshirt senior forward Ethan Chargois, freshman guard Bijan Cortes, redshirt senior guard Jordan Goldwire and freshman guard C.J. Noland.
“At the end of the day, a lot of the turnovers came on us just making poor passes, poor decision making.” Hill said. “We need to continue to grow in that department.”
Hill, Sooners stay hot from field despite loss
Hill is having a historic start to his junior campaign. The Las Vegas native came into Tuesday’s game shooting 68.7 percent from the field so far this season, which would rank highest in a single season at OU.
Hill continued his hot shooting Tuesday night in Waco, going 6-for-11 from the field and scoring 12 points. The Sooners shot an efficient 56 percent from the field once again and entered the contest ranked No. 8 nationally in field goal percentage at 50.1 percent.
Cortes found the junior forward under the basket for a rim-rattling slam dunk with 12:22 left in the first half. Hill has now scored 10 or more points in his last four of five games, gaining confidence game by game, even in a loss.
“Coming in we all believed that we could win,” Hill said. “I think during the game we really felt it, though. We hit them first in that second half and I think that gave us confidence… we need to come into every game like that.”
Three missing contributors return
Tanner Groves, Jacob Groves and Cortes were available Tuesday night for the first time since entering COVID-19 health and safety protocols and missing the Kansas State game.
The trio showed little fatigue and each played significant minutes. Tanner Groves was inserted back into the starting lineup and scored 13 points, grabbed six rebounds, dished five assists and turned the ball over just once in 26 minutes.
Cortes entered the game off the bench and had an immediate impact as a playmaker. He finished with six points and three assists in 15 minutes. Jacob Groves scored two points in 10 minutes off the bench.
“It was great having them back,” Hill said. “They helped us out, we had a lot more depth in the lineup today. Tanner was playing good offensively and defensively… Bijan came in, he was doing what he was supposed to do, getting everybody easy baskets and playing defense. I think they played great.”
Despite getting three players back from protocols, Oklahoma had two players — redshirt senior guard Marvin Johnson and redshirt sophomore forward Rick Issanza — unavailable against Baylor. It’s unclear when the duo will return to the floor.
Chargois finding role
Chargois intercepted Flagler’s pass at mid-court with 16:01 remaining in Tuesday's game. The redshirt senior forward pushed the ball up the floor, leaned into Baylor forward Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua and finished what became a 3-point play with his right hand.
The Tulsa native has seen his minutes increase, as he’s played over 10 minutes in his last four games, including 14 Tuesday night and a season-high 18 against Kansas State on Jan. 1. Chargois played more minutes due to multiple players being unavailable due to health and safety protocols.
“Ethan has given us quality minutes all season,” Moser said. “I really like the way he’s playing. He’s staying positive.”
Chargois finished Tuesday’s game with 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting, two steals and a block in the loss. Sooners coach Porter Moser expressed a desire to get Chargois more playing time and said he’s working with him to limit his fouls when he spoke to reporters Monday. Chargois finished the game with zero fouls compared to four against Kansas State.
“He wants to play hard,” Moser said on Monday. “He wants to do right, he’s always reaching and he needs to show hands. We need more of him, especially when (Tanner Groves) is out.”
Next, the Sooners take on No. 11 Iowa State (12-1, 0-1) at 5 p.m. CT on Jan. 8 in Norman.