Ball movement has been a concern as the Oklahoma Sooners headed to Kansas City for the Big 12 Tournament. Coming off a lackluster performance at TCU, Lon Kruger has been great at motivating his team to pick up their play while buying into his style. It paid off against the Iowa St. Cyclones in the first half as OU had three players dish out two or more assists in the opening 20 minutes of play.
For Fred Hoiberg and his crew, the plan was simple...to get up shots from beyond the arc as well as forcing the ball out of Romero Osby's hands. While the plan is simple on paper, it is much more difficult to execute. Throughout the first half, Iowa St. connected on an uncharacteristic 1-of-12 three point attempts. However, the lack of success did not keep them from firing up a few more as it is a crucial part of their identity.
Melvin Ejim certainly had his work cut out with Osby as Coach Hoiberg sent the double team early and often. With the mentality, poise, and experience Osby possesses, he quickly realized the double coming and found the shooter as he finished the half with 12 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists.
It was the Sooners who set the tone early playing solid half court defense refusing to allow Tyrus McGee to find a shooting rhythm. Will Clyburn was kept off the charity stripe as Oklahoma took a 37-29 lead into the locker room.
The second half started with Coach Hoiberg switching his defensive strategy as the Cyclones packed the lane to negate the efforts of Osby in an attempt to force other players to beat them. Much to ISU fans dismay, the Sooners continued to enjoy a 10 point lead. Each time Iowa St. made a run, Oklahoma had the answer keeping the Cyclones at arms length.
With just under 4:00 left of the game clock, Iowa St. capped off a 12-0 run to tie the game up at 60-60. After two Sam Grooms' free throws, Clyburn found himself with an "and one" opportunity to take the lead and take the lead he did for the first time in the game 63-62.
Without a field goal since the 8:10 mark, Lon Kruger and his squad were in danger of being eliminated as free throws became their life line. Trailing by two with under a minute and in desperate need of a stop, the Sooners gave up a Chris Babb three pointer that all but sealed the game 71-66 in Iowa St.'s favor.
With 37 seconds left, Oklahoma looked for a hero but came up short as Fred Hoiberg orchestrated a near flawless second half plan and came away with a 73-66 win all but punching the ticket to the NCAAs. His team finished a perfect 12-of-12 from the free throw line and connected on 7-of-26 three point attempts.
Ejim completed his circuit of the Big 12 by recording yet another double-double (now has one on every conference team) bringing him to 14 on the season with 23 points and 13 rebounds.