For the first time since 2009, the Oklahoma Sooners have advanced to the round of thirty-two. With a 69-60 victory over the Albany Great Danes, Lon Kruger became the only coach in NCAA history to secure a win the tournament with five different programs.
While Albany has four NCAA Tournament appearances in school history, some questioned whether Peter Hooley and the rest of the Danes were worthy of a bid in the field of sixty-eight. After a miracle three-pointer to win the American East Tournament Championship, the Great Danes were awarded an automatic bid. However, on Friday night, Albany proved worthy of a bid holding their own as a No. 14 seed.
Not possessing a player over 6-8, the Sooners usually find themselves undersized in the post. Entering the round of sixty-four, all of that changed as TaShawn Thomas immediately began to exploit the height difference. Collecting 18 points, Thomas led the way while Ryan Spangler added 11 rebounds.
To keep things interesting, Albany continuously fought for each board coming up with 14 on the offensive glass to remain within striking distance. Down 49-59, Evan Singletary knocked down a long two-pointer. The guard followed the made jumper up with two consecutive three-pointers to pull within six points of the Sooners 59-65 at the 2:02 mark. The glimmer of hope quickly faded as a last three-point attempt missed the mark.
Oklahoma out-rebounded the Great Danes 40-34 while shooting 43.9% from the floor. Coach Kruger opted to explore options off the bench early on during the game playing nine different players in the first half. Fortunately, Frank Booker produced 8 points and D.J. Bennett added another 4. The bench becomes even more crucial as the Sooners advance.
Oklahoma plays next on Sunday as they await the winner of Dayton and Providence.