It’s that time of year again. Basketball is officially back in Norman, and it was highlighted in Norman Sunday when the Sooners won their first regular season game in dominating fashion, 85-51 against the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks.
Oklahoma got off to a shaky start, committing careless turnovers and taking ill-advised shots early. These struggles were ephemeral however, and after some subs came in and provided instant offense, Oklahoma shed their first-game jitters, rolling to victory behind stellar defense and sharp shooting.
Oklahoma forced 14 miscues from the Warhawks and also recorded seven steals and seven blocks. The intense defensive play from the Sooners freshmen was most impressive; they were very active disrupting the passing lanes, combining for six steals.
Speaking of the freshmen, many were surprised to see two of them (Isaiah Cousins and Je’lon Hornbeak) crack the starting lineup, but they certainly proved they belonged there. Hornbeak was all over the court, scoring 10 points, grabbing five rebounds, dishing five assists, and swiping two steals. Cousins, playing point guard, paced the offense extremely well for a freshman, also adding five assists. The two were extremely poised, allowing for only one turnover between the two of them. Buddy Hield also contributed nine points off of the bench on 4-7 shooting.
Steven Pledger picked up right where he left off last season, leading the Sooners in scoring on a hot shooting night. Though limited to just 18 minutes due to foul trouble, the senior still managed to pour in 15 points on 5-9 shooting from beyond the arc. The Sooners shot 39% (9-23) as a team from three.
The Sooners weren’t limited to success from just the outside however, they also put in work in the low post, grabbing 49 rebounds for 16 2nd chance points and 42 overall points in the paint. Romero Osby, Amath M’Baye and Andrew Fitzgerald, the Sooners three bruisers in the frontcourt, combined for a total of 33 points and 22 rebounds. Osby also added seven rebounds and three blocks, and is the Sooner Player of the Game for his efforts.
Perhaps one of the most valuable variables for the Sooners today however, was bench production. All offseason there has been talk of the improved depth of the squad, and today it certainly showed. Seven Sooners ended the game with nine or more points, and the reserve players put in good production with 37 bench points. Every Sooner that played today scored at least one point.
Something that could go unnoticed but shouldn’t is the play of Sam Grooms. He only played 14 minutes but put in five assists and committed zero turnovers for an amazingly productive day distributing the ball. Grooms is the leading returner in assists per game in the Big 12 conference.
Overall, other than the sluggish start, the Sooners looked really good today. It was no contest once they got their game plan going, and the team already looks to have improved from their exhibition games. The added depth and talent is going to be huge for the team this season. It was a great start to the season today, and hopefully the team will continue to build on its successes from the opener.
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