It was a long, drawn out ugly end to the game but when the final horn sounded the Sooners walked off the floor with an 85-73 win over the Santa Clara Broncos. The win puts OU in Sunday's championship game against St. Louis, who knocked off Villanova earlier in the day, but it certainly didn't come as easy as it appeared it would.
Oklahoma used a 20-0 run to turn a 24-19 lead at the 5:46 mark of the first half into a 44-19 lead at the 19:12 mark of the second half. It appeared as if the game was going to turn into a rout but some lethargic play by the Sooners along with some streaky shooting by Santa Clara in the second half made it closer. Around the 2:48 minute mark Santa Clara started fouling on purpose to try and pressure the Sooners into missing free throws. It almost worked too!
When Kevin Foster fouled Andrew Fitzgerald with 2:48 left in the game the Sooners led 68-56. The Broncos actually cut the lead to six points (79-73) with just under a minute left but Oklahoma would push it back to the final margin of 12 points.
Romero Osby scored just nine points which barely caused him to miss a double-double and also made him the only starter to not score in double figures. Steven Pledger led all Sooner scorers with 26 points, aided by 4-8 three-point shooting. Andrew Fitzgerald and Sam Grooms scored 12 points each and Cameron Clark posted 11. Fitzgerald also grabbed 13 rebounds giving him the double-double and Grooms dished out six assists to only one turnover.
Oklahoma convincingly won the battle of the boards 47-28 and, thanks to the strategy used by Santa Clara over the last two plus minutes of the game, shot 32 free throws to 16 for the Broncos. The inability of Oklahoma to put Santa Clara away could be a warning that this team hasn't fully developed a killer instinct yet or it could be that they mentally checked out after building a huge halftime lead. Either way it shows that there are still things for Coach Kruger to work on.
With that aside, we're seeing things from Oklahoma's basketball team that we haven't seen in years. They're playing with heart and giving a ton of effort. They're bonded as a team and they rarely get out hustled on plays. They actually look like a well coached team that follows a legitimate game.
Oklahoma now will face St. Louis in Sunday's championship game. The Billikens advanced by beating Boston College (62-51) on Thursday and Villinova on (80-68) on Friday. Tip in the championship game is set for 8:00 on Sunday night.