It’s been a while since Oklahoma last won the Big 12 tournament, but that hasn’t stopped the Sooners from thinking big this week.
Coming off a first-round bye, No. 17 Oklahoma goes for a fifth consecutive win over surging Baylor as these schools meet in the quarterfinals Thursday night.
The second-seeded Sooners (23-8) head to Kansas City full of confidence after finishing two games behind regular-season champion Kansas. They have made a conference-best 261 3s and are tied for the league lead with 82.5 points per game.
"We’re still hungry," sophomore Buddy Hield, averaging a team-high 16.8 points, told the school’s official website. "We’ve still got something to prove to everybody, and we’re just trying to go and win basketball games."
The Sooners haven’t won the Big 12 tournament since earning three consecutive championships from 2001-03.
"It’s a year where, compared to past years, we really feel like we have as good a chance as any team in the league to come away with a championship," senior Tyler Neal said. "It’s really exciting and we know we have to take it one game at a time.
The Sooners have won three straight and five of six after cruising to a 97-67 victory at TCU on Saturday. Hield led the way with 24 points while Cameron Clark and Isaiah Cousins scored 18 apiece.
"A lot of guys right now are playing with a high level of confidence. They’ve got good focus right now," said Lon Kruger, who won Big 12 Coach of the Year honors. "They’ve made good progress, consistently throughout. The last three weeks especially, probably playing their best basketball.
"They know how tough it is, the journey that is ahead, and looking forward with excitement."
The Sooners are hoping to get off on the right foot against the Bears (22-10), whom they beat 66-64 on Jan. 18 and 88-72 at home Feb. 8.
Baylor, though, has been nearly unbeatable since the second of those defeats, going 8-1 over its last nine. The Bears continued their NCAA push with a 76-68 victory over TCU in the opening round of this tournament, their fourth consecutive victory.
Cory Jefferson had 20 points and 10 rebounds and Royce O’Neale added 14 and 12 as Baylor held a 39-22 edge on the glass. Isaiah Austin also came up big with 18 points and five blocks.
"I think our guys are happy with the win, but know that we have to play better and look forward to having that opportunity (Thursday)," coach Scott Drew said after earning win No. 200 at Baylor, moving him within one of Bill Henderson for the most in school history.
The Bears, just 3-7 against ranked teams this season, are 10-41 all-time against the Sooners.
"It’s just going to be another Big 12 battle. Both teams are going to be ready," said Jefferson, averaging 19.0 points the last three games. "It was a close one at our house. So we’re going to come out (Thursday), try to get a win. They’re going to be ready to play us. Obviously they don’t want to lose. So it’s just going to be a good game.
Jefferson, leading the team with 13.6 points per game, has been limited to a combined 19 while shooting 38.9 percent versus Oklahoma this year. The Bears are 20-5 when he scores at least 10 points compared to 2-5 when he doesn’t.