Oklahoma came out with a vengeance after losing to an in state rival as part of their rough start to conference play. The Sooners got out to a quick start and never looked back leaving the Kansas St. Wildcats playing catch up for the entire game. Most will begin to label this as a "coming of age" for Lon Kruger's squad and rightfully so. Through out the first three games of conference play, it was apparent that OU could compete. However, it is an entirely different thing to compete to win. This could be a game that jump starts the rest of the season as it is a huge win for the program and Lon Kruger.
All props go solely to Lon Kruger for this win. Sooner fans are used to seeing Cameron Clark in the starting line-up. Today, all that would change as Clark has been ice cold minus a few games this season. In his place Carl Blair Jr. would get the start after a great showing off the bench. Now, remember, Blair as well as Sam Grooms are both listed as point guards and have great ball handling skills. The dual PG attack allowed Oklahoma to keep their turnovers to a minimum while letting Steven Pledger, the team's leading scorer this season, move about freely. However, Clark would respond to coming off the bench earning 6th Man of the Game honors after finishing 4-5 from the field with 10 points.
Outside of that, Kruger was up for the defensive challenge the physicality of the Wildcats would pose. One area that the Sooners have excelled at defensively under Kruger has been on baseline in-bounds plays. As OU began to bring the ball up the court on offense, Kruger was already planning for the next series on defense shouting out defensive sets to Grooms and the others.
The biggest turn around during this game was the fact that Kansas St. who is used to forcing their opponent into taking shots that favor the Wildcats got a taste of their own medicine. Oklahoma was very active in the passing lanes creating 18 turnovers and challenged each and every shot. Rodney McGruder, coming of a career high 30 points, struggled to get anything to fall going 6-16 on the afternoon.
Steven Pledger came on late and showed great patience not forcing anything. Instead Oklahoma used a drive and dish mind set opening things up for Andrew Fitzgerald who had a career high 21 points and Romero Osby who also finished with a career high 18. Osby has great moves after catching the ball in the blocks and has the ability to finish. Couple that with the mid-range game Fitz has developed and this could be a deadly combo for any opponent. Kruger has the tools to establish a traditional inside-out game. Look for the Sooners to do more of this with Blair and Grooms in simultaneously.
Overall it was a great defensive performance backed by solid shooting. OU shot a blazing 56% from the field and 84.6% from the charity stripe while holding the Wildcats to 38.5% on the afternoon. It is always a good sign when a team is shooting 26 times from the stripe. It means Oklahoma was aggressive and sustained it throughout the game, something that was a concern of mine at the start.
It is rare that you see a team get dominated on offensive boards like today and get the win.