Coming off a 3rd place finish from the Old Spice Classic, OU came looking to carry that momentum and experience deep into the season. For the second time this season, Lon Kruger took his Oklahoma Sooners on the road once again, this time in state to take on the ORU Golden Eagles.
In the first half, Oklahoma got out to a sluggish start while shooting 0-4 from beyond the arc. However, the most notable stat line to watch was the rebounding margin. ORU had been averaging a +8.5 margin per game. The first half showed that as Damen Bell-Holter and Steven Roundtree out rebounded their counterparts in Romero Osby, Andrew Fitzgerald, and Amath M'Baye.
"They rebounded the ball much better than we did. We came out of a weekend where we thought we had become a lot more physical and more aggressive on the boards. We did in the second half, but the first half we didn't carry that over at all. We have to understand it's about every possession every night, and we'll keep learning and keep getting better." - Lon Kruger
The halftime pep talk certainly got the Sooners fired up on the boards as Oklahoma would finish the game with 37 (18 offensive) rebounds to ORU's 33. However, solid shooting remained a rarity to start the second half as well. Rebounding and careless turnovers were the deciding factor in this game.
Niles Warren came into this game averaging just over 20 points per game. He has a knack for finding the bottom of the net and continued an onslaught against OU. Warren would finish with a game high 19 points. Roundtree added 14 of his own to go along with Shawn Glover's 17. The starting five of the Golden Eagles has been solid but the trend in lack of bench scoring held true once again in this match-up.
For the Sooners, it was Osby and M'Baye leading with way with 12 and 11 respectively. Buddy Hield would come off the bench to complete the trio of double digit scorers with 11 points as well.
At one point during the game, Oklahoma found themselves down to ORU 42-33. However, it was the defense that picked up the slack at this point while the Sooners clawed their way back into this nail-biter as they were outplayed for a majority of the evening. Last season, this was a team that lacked true grit while most likely ending with a loss in a tight game down the stretch. This season, OU is 3-0 in games that have been decided by 7 points or less. Can you say "clutch"?
"Tight games late are great to learn from. You can't simulate those situations in practice, whether it be executing a play or getting a big defensive stop. We've had that opportunity, and while we'd like to have games in better control than that late, I've liked how we've responded at those moments." - Lon Kruger