While the Oklahoma Sooners were coming into this game knowing it wasn't necessarily a "must-win" scenario, the desire to perform well was there. Intel pointed to this Texas A&M Aggie squad being more physical than some of the past OU opponents and therefore presented a challenge on the boards while using ball screens to get open. The pivotal decision for an undersized Sooners team to play even smaller could have ended differently against better talent.
However, it was the spark off the bench that gave Oklahoma a surge they have been waiting for. After Steven Pledger recorded 5 of the Sooners' first 7 points, Buddy Hield would step a tad later to provide a 5 point run of his own. Hield finished the half with 10 of the Sooners final 12 points to lead Texas A&M 28-27
"It is nice to have guys coming off the bench playing well when you have three starters who didn't get any field goals. Again, to this point, different guys coming off the bench are picking us up defensively. Buddy [Hield] did a really good job coming in the first half and gave us good activity in the second half. Cam [Clark], of course, was fantastic. It is not just scoring, but activity coming off the bench which is good energy." - Lon Kruger via SoonerSports
Throughout the first half, the Sooner defense was present but was nothing spectacular. Creating mismatches along with advantages and turnovers was sporadic and inconsistent. It was after the game was tied at 41 that Oklahoma would go on a tear getting what they wanted. The Texas A&M guards were forced to play a bit faster than they wanted to leading to a 15-3 run in favor of the Sooners.
"I thought the ball game was going back and forth there for the first 25 minutes or so. Texas A&M is a good, physical ball club and they hurt us on the boards a little bit, especially with a little bit of a smaller lineup. Their size hurt us a little bit, but I thought our activity defensively during the second half was really a key in converting some transitions going the other way. [That] is probably what made the margin there a two or four-point game for a while, but then we popped it to 10 off of a couple steals." - Lon Kruger via SoonerSports
As mentioned above, it was Cameron Clark who had an unforeseen impact on the outcome of this game. The decision to move Clark to the 4 spot may have been the best decision of his career up to this point. He has the potential to be a big time scoring but has never been in a position that he seemed comfortable to do so. However, it was his athleticism that was on display. Clark at the 4 gave Oklahoma a smaller lineup than usual. The advantage came with his strength and knack for slashing toward the basket against slower, bigger defenders.
"I felt comfortable down there attacking the bigs and moving the ball to help my teammates to get open shots. It was good." - Cam Clark via SoonerSports
Clark ended the game with a season high 17 points on 8-12 shooting and 4 rebounds. Hopefully this is a wrinkle that will continue to persist and give Lon Kruger and his Sooners and upperhand.
Romero Osby was the other star on this afternoon. Osby collected 19 points (led all scorers) to go along with 7 rebounds and continues to be the leader for this team.
While Oklahoma shot a mere 38.9% from the field, they excelled at the charity stripe, something we here at CCM have harped on all off-season. The Sooners shot a total of 19 FTs connecting on 18 of those attempts for a 94.7% success rate. The story here may be the turnovers though. Oklahoma controlled the pace and played at what was comfortable for them as they forced the Aggies into 19 turnovers leading to many quick points.
The Men's Basketball Squad handled business and improved to 7-2 on the season while giving us a precursor to what will take place on the grid iron. Now, it is on the Football Team to follow suit.