The Lon Kruger era started off on the right foot Friday night with a win overIdaho State. Though some would argue it could be classified as a “too close for comfort” win, it nevertheless, still counts in the long run. The Sooners entered the game a 17-point favorite, and struggled early, sneaking away with a 78-74 win.
Oklahoma had difficulty defending the deep ball, and committed too many turnovers leading to fast break opportunities early, and Idaho State got off to a hot start, leading by as many as ten in the first half. The zone they were facing was something new for the Sooners, and they had trouble finding ways to penetrate early. With time, they eventually were able to overcome the deficit going on a 12-2 run late in the 2nd to regain a 30-29 lead. Idaho State refused to yield their lead easily however, and took a 34-31 lead into the locker room, leaving Sooner fans in shock.
The Sooners came out in the 2nd the same sluggish manner of play, but sparked by Calvin Newell, eventually picked it up retaking a 42-41 lead five minutes in. They were able to find shots more easily and settle into more of an offensive groove in this half shooting 47% compared to just 24% in the first. The Sooners survived a potential scary situation as after a fastbreak dunk, Newell, went down with an injury, and had to leave the game. Luckily, he returned for the Sooners a few minutes later to top off the game with a career high 19 points in 28 minutes off the bench.
Shortly after Newell’s return, senior Barry Honore came up with blocks on back to back possessions to fuel a 9-0 run, after that the Sooners never looked back, holding off last minute rallies by the Bengals to take the four point victory.
Romero Osby added 17 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double in his Sooner debut, he also came up with four assists, two blocks and a steal making him the Sooner Player of the Game.
Sam Grooms also made his Sooner debut a special one adding 11 points, eight assists and two steals in 37 minutes of action. He was the main ball handler and distributor for the Sooners for the majority of the contest, with Carl Blair playing off guard on the wings, where he also added 12 points, six rebounds and five assists.
Andrew Fitzgerald had a tough time finding his post game in the first, up against 7’4” Jakub Kusmierik. He came on strong in the second where he scored all of the seven points.
After two strong exhibition outings Cameron Clark was quiet tonight, held to just two points on 1-10 from the field.
Tyler Neal and Casey Arent added some solid minutes as well combining for eight points and eight rebounds on the night. Turnovers were an issue for both however and they combined to commit five of the Sooners 15, or 33%.
Steven Pledger did not play tonight as he was serving a one-game suspension. He will be back and eligible to play Nov. 18th versus Coppin State.
Overall, it was in a lot of ways a good opener for the Sooners. It is not uncommon for a team to look a little out of synch in their first game, especially in a rebuilding team like Oklahoma’s case. The main thing is that the number in the W column is moving upward. The first game usually serves as an indicator to work out all the kinks and weaknesses in practice and improve. There were also some positives to highlight tonight as well in the play of Osby, Newell, Grooms and others. Another thing to keep in mind is that the Sooners were without one of the key players in Steven Pledger. With Pledger back, next game should serve as a better meter on which to judge the strengths and weaknesses of this team.
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