The dunk by Gathers punctuated a late 10-0 spurt that finally put Baylor ahead to stay in a 69-58 victory over No. 19 Oklahoma on Saturday night.
"I found Rico trailing. I knew he was going to catch it and dunk it," O'Neale said. "I had to get an assist for it."
Kenny Chery had a 3-pointer to start the run and tie the game at 49 with 6:45 left. The point guard also had the long rebound off a missed 3-pointer by Oklahoma, igniting the highlight play for the Bears (15-4, 3-3 Big 12) when he passed ahead to O'Neale to set up the dunk that made it 56-49.
"Every game, we usually have one or two highlight plays, but the coaches always prefer the ones where we have multiple people involved," coach Scott Drew said. "So the fact that we had some great pitch aheads and really unselfish play ... some of the guys could have gone in, but they made the extra pass to the person to make it easier. That's what good teammates do."
Lester Medford had 17 points, including a 3-pointer during the 10-0 before consecutive assists on dunks by Gathers and Taurean Prince in a 15-second span in the final 1:20 of the game. Baylor's last field goal came when Prince passed up a breakaway of his own and passed to Gathers for another slam.
"At the critical time there of the second half I thought Baylor was a little quicker to boards," Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. "Made plays, made shots there in the key stretch when the game was even to create a little bit of a margin."
Chery finished with 13 points, while Prince had 12 and O'Neale 10. Gathers had eight points and eight rebounds, 20 fewer than his Big 12 record in Baylor's previous game.
Oklahoma played its national-high ninth Top 25 opponent already this season, and the sixth ranked opponent in Big 12 play which began with that Jan. 3 game against the Bears.
The Sooners went ahead for the first time with a 7-0 to start the second half. Hield turned a steal into a breakaway two-handed slam before Isaiah Cousins hit a 3-pointer and Thomas a jumper for a 31039 lead. They later scored nine consecutive points, with Thomas' two free throws breaking a 40-all tie before his inside basket.
The Bears looked like they were in for another close finish. Their previous four Big 12 games had been decided by two points or less -- except for a seven-point overtime victory at TCU.
"It helped out a lot because we kept our poise," Medford said. "We battled it out and ended up with good results."
BEAT THE CLOCK
Baylor had the ball back after Booker's 3-pointer ended a 4 1/2-minute Oklahoma scoring drought to end the Bears' run of 10 consecutive points. With the shot clock running down, Medford gave the ball up to O'Neale, who made a 3-pointer to beat the buzzer. "I was just trusting in him that he could get that shot off and make it," Medford said. That was the first of three assists by Medford in a span of 1:45.
Oklahoma had its fewest points at halftime this season, down 30-24. The Sooners scored 23 points in the second half of consecutive games in the Bahamas at the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament Thanksgiving weekend.
Baylor recognized Jerry Mallett, who was in attendance three days after his single-game record of 27 rebounds was broken by Gathers. Mallett set his record on Feb. 1, 1955, making the nearly 60-year-old record the team's longest-standing record until Gathers' 28-rebound game against NAIA school Huston-Tillotson.
Oklahoma is home Wednesday night against Texas Tech.
Baylor plays Tuesday night at Oklahoma State.
- Gerry Pollard
- Kipp Kissinger
- Joe DeRosa