NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — TaShawn Thomas wasn’t impressed with his non-conference performance.
He felt much better about his Big 12 debut. The senior scored 24 points to help No. 18 Oklahoma beat No. 22 Baylor 73-63 on Saturday.
Thomas, a 6-foot-8 power forward who transferred from the University of Houston before the season, made 11 of 17 shots and grabbed eight rebounds. He averaged 10.8 points in non-conference play, which he considered subpar after being named second-team Conference USA last season and first team the year before.
“I didn’t really feel like I played to my potential, so I just talked to myself and I talked to coaches and everything, and they told me that when conference starts out, it’s a new season,” he said. “I have a new beginning, so I just came out with a fresh mindset and didn’t try think about anything that happened in the preseason or anything like that.”
Buddy Hield had 20 points and 10 rebounds and Isaiah Cousins added 19 points for the Sooners (10-3, 1-0 Big 12), who won their third straight in the conference opener for both teams.
Hield, the team’s top scorer this season, said Thomas makes his job easier.
“I would say TaShawn is one of our better players, if not the best player on the team,” Hield said. “He’s so versatile. He can dribble, face up and catch it down low. He should just keep on doing what he’s doing.”
Baylor forward Taurean Prince said the plan for Baylor’s 1-3-1 defense was to take out Oklahoma’s perimeter game, which made things easier for Thomas.
“Well, it’s really give and take,” Prince said. “You’ve got to give something in order to be good against them. We were giving up twos. We wasn’t going to let them beat us with threes. That was the game plan.
Freshman Johnathan Motley scored a season-high 24 points and Prince added 17 for Baylor (11-2, 0-1), which had won six straight.
Baylor, which had held opponents to 55 points per game, allowed its highest point total of the season. Oklahoma made 21 of 25 free throws, while Baylor made just 12 of 18.
Baylor led 23-16 in the first half, but Oklahoma rallied to lead 37-33 at halftime behind 12 points from Thomas and 11 from Cousins. Prince and Motley each scored 12 points in the first half for Baylor.
Baylor made just one of its first seven shots after the break, and Oklahoma took a 46-37 lead on a 3-pointer by Cousins. The Sooners extended their lead to nine on a 3-pointer by Hield, and he drained another three with just over 6 minutes to play to push Oklahoma’s lead to 58-46.
The Bears shot 46 percent in the first half, but just 29 percent after the break.
“You’ve got to give a lot of the credit to OU’s defense,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “Those guys really got after it. We missed a lot of layups, but there’s a reason you miss a lot of layups — the pressure they put on, the contests they have.”
Baylor: Prince, the Big 12 leader in 3-point percentage heading into the game, made 4 of 8 … Kenny Chery had five assists at halftime but one in the second half. … Rico Gathers, who entered the game leading the Big 12 in rebounding, had 12, including six offensive.
Oklahoma: Sooners now lead the series with Baylor 42-11. … Ryan Spangler, who entered the game as the Big 12 leader in field goal percentage, missed all three of his shots before fouling out, but he played solid defense and grabbed seven rebounds. … Oklahoma committed just two turnovers in the first half. … Oklahoma’s bench scored just two points.
The Sooners fell behind 23-18 early, and appeared to lack energy before Hield hit back-to-back 3-pointers, pushing the ball after defensive rebounds and shooting before Baylor could set its defense, to give the Sooners a 24-23 lead.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
Baylor coach Drew, on how the Sooners shut his team down in the second half: “Put a lid on the rim,” he said to laughter. “They just didn’t give us any easy looks.”
Baylor: host Kansas on Wednesday.
Oklahoma: visit Texas on Monday.
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP