Baylor proved the college basketball theory about the difficulty of defeating an opponent for a third time in a season.
The seventh-seeded Bears outlasted second-seeded Oklahoma 78-73 on Thursday in a Big 12 quarterfinal.
The Sooners thumped Baylor by 16 in Norman and held off the Bears by a bucket in Waco.
But it was a different story at the Sprint Center, and the Bears, who defeated TCU in an opening-round game Wednesday, move into Friday’s semifinals to face Texas or West Virginia.
Baylor took control in the earliest moments, scoring the game’s first 10 points, and the Bears were never slowed.
“The last two times we hit them first,” Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler said. “But today, they hit us first. They got on a roll and it was hard to stop.”
Oklahoma is a pace-pushing team, but the Sooners’ role was reversed against Baylor. The Bears couldn’t be stopped with the ball, and everybody contributed.
In building a 47-31 halftime lead, Baylor had nobody in double figures but five with at least seven. Each starter, including 7-footer Isaiah Austin and 6-9 Cory Jefferson, had drilled a three-pointer.
Austin finished with 18 points.
And Oklahoma could not generate offense against Baylor’s zone defense. The Bears’ length pushed Sooners’ shooters away from the basket. When Oklahoma tried to score inside Austin was there to block five shots.
A perceived weakness of the zone is rebounding, but Baylor was dominating that department as well in building its big first-half lead.
Everything favored the Bears through the early moments of the second half as the lead climbed to 52-31.
From there, it became a matter of keeping Oklahoma from coming all the way back.
It almost happened.
“It was important to have a lead and have an opportunity to make a mistake or two and still be okay,” Baylor Coach Scott Drew said.
Oklahoma’s Jordan Woodard fired in a three-pointer with 2.9 seconds remaining that cut the deficit to 76-73. But the Sooners couldn’t get a stop.
Both teams will be playing in the NCAA Tournament next week. The loss could impact the seeding of Oklahoma, projected to be anywhere from a No. 4 to No. 6.
Baylor, which has won nine of its past 10 games after starting the year 2-8 in conference play, could make a move in seeding, perhaps away from a possible No. 8 or 9 seed.