NORMAN – After having to watch the Bedlam rivalry from the bench a season ago, Amath M’Baye couldn’t wait for his chance to actually play in it.
As soon as Oklahoma finished its comeback victory at West Virginia a week ago, M’Baye was already getting psyched about the chance to face Oklahoma State. Even better, when his chance finally arrived, M’Baye came through with the plays to put the game away.
M’Baye scored seven straight points during a second-half spurt and the Sooners beat Oklahoma State 77-68 on Saturday.
“I was getting more excited and more excited throughout the whole year. I always love rivalry games, and in the Big 12 there’s plenty of that,” M’Baye said.
Romero Osby scored 17 points, and M’Baye and freshman Buddy Hield added 15 apiece as Oklahoma (11-3, 2-0 Big 12) defended its home court in the Bedlam rivalry for the ninth straight season. The Cowboys (11-4, 1-2) haven’t won in Norman since 2004, when they went on to win the Big 12 championship and reach the Final Four.
The Sooners went 8 for 13 from 3-point range (61.5 percent). The team had been making just 31 percent of its 3-point attempts this season and hadn’t made more than 42 percent in any previous game.
“We shot the ball well. It seemed like we made shots at critical times,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “Whenever they were just ready to get over the hump, we’d make a shot to take it from four back to seven, or two back to five.
“The shots came at critical times. This is a club that can shoot better than we were earlier. Lately, we’ve shot it better.”
Markel Brown scored 19 points to lead Oklahoma State, and star freshman Marcus Smart was limited by foul trouble and ended up with 10 points. The Cowboys have lost all three of their road games this season.
“Some kind of spell on us or something that we’ve got to get over. We’ve got to find a way to get good road wins in the Big 12,” Brown said. “These type of games, they help you and they can hurt you for the tournament.”
Oklahoma State has lost three of its last four games, falling out of the Top 25 after earning a ranking for the first time in five years. Coach Travis Ford’s group is 11-0 when holding opponents to 65 points or less, and 0-4 when giving up more.
“We can’t just lean on, ‘Hey, we were a good defensive team. We were great at defense. We’re supposed to be good at defense,’” Ford said. “Nobody cares about that right now. Who could care less what you were?
“We’ve got to get back to having that edge defensively and that being our identity.”
The Sooners sustained a 17-5 Oklahoma State run midway through the second half, seeing their 14-point lead get trimmed to 52-50 after two Le’Bryan Nash free throws with 9:13 remaining. Steven Pledger answered with a 3-pointer at the opposite end, then drilled three free throws after getting fouled on another 3-point try on the next possession.
M’Baye restored Oklahoma’s big cushion, hitting his first 3-pointer of the season right in front of the Sooners’ bench, scoring a tip-in on a lob from Sam Grooms and then slamming down another Grooms alley-oop off an inbounds play for a 70-57 edge with 4:09 remaining.
M’Baye is one of four newcomers playing big roles for Oklahoma this season, along with freshmen Je’lon Hornbeak, Isaiah Cousins and Hield. M’Baye had to sit out last season after transferring from Wyoming.
Now, Kruger doesn’t have anyone on his deeper team averaging even 27 minutes per game. Three players who started throughout last season are now reserves.
“I think the depth is a big key. We’ve got veteran guys coming off the bench,” Kruger said. “Last year, we didn’t quite have that ability to sustain anything good that we had going.”
The Sooners led throughout, taking advantage of a couple early Oklahoma State turnovers to score the game’s first seven points. Osby converted a three-point play – drawing Smart’s third foul on a close block/charge call with Smart getting set outside the restricted area – to make it 32-18 with 4:35 left in the first half.
“They came out and they set the tone for the game. We didn’t respond,” Brown said. “They came out, put pressure on us, played way harder than us and it affected the game.”