Oklahoma's men's basketball team is still a ways off from being dubbed, "The Road Warriors" but they did pick up their first road win of the season and their third consecutive win in a row. Suddenly a team we once questioned if they had the ability to win in the Big 12 has a 3-3 record and is tied with Missouri and Nebraska for 5th place. Two weeks after suffering a 20 point loss at Texas the Sooners are coming together thanks to unity and Steven Pledger.
In Saturday night's 82-76 overtime win over Iowa State Saturday night Pledger scored early and late (and in between) to lead Oklahoma. His 38 points was a career high but the way the points came was even more impressive. Pledger was 12-20 from the floor, 7-13 from beyond the arch, 7-8 from the free throw line and a calming influence in a hostile situation.
Poor rebounding and free throw shooting cost Oklahoma the comfortable lead that Pledger helped build. Iowa State beat the Sooners on the boards 43-29 and despite shooting 32 free throws Oklahoma only capitalized on 19 of them. The Cyclones held a 67-64 lead with 35 seconds left but Pledger's shot tied it up to force overtime. He then completed his career performance with 8 points during the bonus basketball period.
Jeff Capel has shortened his rotation and reduced the roles of several players on the team. Even in an overtime game he only played eight players. Against Colorado he played seven and against Texas Tech it was eight as well. Its something that's working and the players are buying into it. Andrew Fitzgerald played a less significant role in favor of a smaller/quicker lineup that could better defend the perimeter. The result was a 20% shooting performance from beyond the arch for the Cyclones and 39% from the floor. Oklahoma also forced 20 Iowa State turnovers.
We may not have liked where this team started the season but there's no doubt that Jeff Capel has brought them a long way. They are a solid and unified team that is developing skill and learning to play in the Big 12. Steven Pledger seems to be ahead of the class.