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Oklahoma Sooners clip Baylor, make case to stay No. 1

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Oklahoma bounces back to beat Baylor (1:12)

Four Sooner starters score in double figures, including Buddy Hield with 19 and Jordan Woodard with 20 in an 82-72 win over the Bears. (1:12)

No. 1 Oklahoma's 82-72 win against No. 13 Baylor should send a message to the voters in both major polls. There's no need to usher in a new team for the Sooners at the top, despite their loss at No. 19 Iowa State on Monday.

Sure, conventional wisdom says when the top-ranked team loses, it must be replaced. That changing of the guard has happened four times since preseason No. 1 North Carolina lost at unranked Northern Iowa in November.

Each team that inherited the top spot since has been proved unworthy:

• Nothing Kentucky has done since beating Duke on Nov. 17 has looked like a No. 1 team, especially on the road.

• An untimely injury to Denzel Valentine threw No. 11 Michigan State all out of sorts to the extent that even now that he's back, the Spartans still haven't regained their rhythm.

• Kansas looked ready for the challenge, but was soundly beaten at No. 6 West Virginia. And losing to an Oklahoma State team, losers of four straight, is unbecoming of a No. 1 team.

No. 2 North Carolina has made a case for getting the top spot back. The Tar Heels have reeled off 10 straight wins since losing on a buzzer-beater at Texas. Senior forward Brice Johnson has thrown up player of the year-type numbers during that stretch.

The problem with Carolina, though no fault of its own, is the backloaded ACC schedule. The Heels have a tricky road game Sunday at Virginia Tech, which beat Virginia in Blacksburg, but have had a relatively easy go in January against teams that were expected to be in the middle of the pack or in the lower tier.

The Heels have yet to face any of the ACC's four other ranked teams -- No. 13 Virginia, No. 15 Miami, No. 17 Louisville and No. 20 Duke. Those games take place beginning Feb. 1 with a trip to see the Cardinals.

That's not the case with the Sooners.

Oklahoma has been arguably the most consistent team in the nation against one of the most competitive schedules. There's no need to rehash what OU did in nonconference play, including the way it smashed Villanova 78-55 on a neutral court.

Just look at what the Sooners have done since Big 12 play began. Three of their five league wins have come against ranked teams (Iowa State, West Virginia), including Saturday's beatdown of Baylor.

The Sooners' two losses were both essentially one-possession games on the road -- the 109-106 triple-overtime classic at Kansas and the 82-77 loss at Iowa State, which was a tie game with 19 seconds left.

Now realize what the Sooners just did to Baylor in Waco, Texas. The Bears, who are tied with Virginia at No. 13 in the Associated Press poll, had won all 12 of their home games this season before Saturday. They were also the only team in two seasons to beat Iowa State in Ames, and they've done it twice.

Yet Oklahoma wrested control of the game late in the first half. With Buddy Hield on the bench with two fouls, Jordan Woodard scored all of his game-high 20 points before halftime.

When Hield rejoined the Sooners' lineup, they stretched their lead to 24. The 10-point final margin makes it seem like the game was closer than it actually was.

It wasn't close at all.

Oklahoma's win should be a statement. That's what No. 1 teams do.