The Lon Kruger era couldn’t have began in a better fashion as the Oklahoma Sooners cruised pastNortheasternState85-51 in the first exhibition game of the 2011-2012 season Tuesday evening.
Kruger threw a variety of lineups on the floor, providing fans with the perfect opportunity to get a look at each individual on the team (aside from Steven Pledger who was out on suspension), while also allowing him to decide on a starting lineup for the season opener Nov. 11th.
Here are some thoughts about the game:
–Cameron Clark: Clark played extremely well tonight and if this game was any indication of the season he is going to have, the rest of the Big 12 had better watch out. He shot the ball really well, and used his quickness and athleticism to his advantage, getting to the rim and drawing fouls. Rebounding he was no slouch either and tied for 2nd on the team with four boards. He was on the receiving end of a breakaway alley-oop slam from Carl Blair, which received rave roars from the crowd. He was by far the best player on the floor tonight and led all scorers with 18 points.
–Sam Grooms: Grooms proved the recruiting experts right with his solid play. He is an athletic, quick and should fit into Kruger’s new up-tempo system very nicely. Though he is pass first, he can score when needed, he proved that by being one of six Sooners in double digits tonight with 10 points. He made some very pretty looking passes, expect him to start at point guard for the Sooners this season, with Carl Blair filling in a backup. Though he only recorded one assist Tuesday, as the group continues to mesh, expect that number to rise.
–Romero Osby: Every practice report from last season hyped Osby up as the best player on the Sooners roster. So naturally, Sooner fans were eager to finally see him in action Tuesday evening. He is a very solid player, athletic and it’s obvious he has talent, but it’s also obvious he was a little rusty after not having played a college basketball game for a year, since transferring from Mississippi State. He came on later in the second half however, and ended up finishing with 10 points and leading the team in rebounds with eight. If he can just get that kind of production on the boards regularly, he will still be a catalyst for a team lacking in size. I expect his play to improve as the season progresses however, until he could potentially become a 12-15 PPG type a player.
–Tyler Neal: Neal is going to be a spark for the Sooners off the bench and most likely the 6th man. He is very versatile, can play either the three or the four position, and will likely sub in at both spots. He could become a very valuable asset to the team if he keeps playing the way he did Tuesday, finishing with 12 points and 4 rebounds, one steal and a block.
–Calvin Newell: This was the first time Newell was seen in his natural position play off-ball, instead of running the show at point compared to last year. He started in place of the suspended Pledger and came out a little rusty in the first half. The second half however, he came out much more confident and started hitting his shot a lot more, nailing a couple of threes and showcasing his offensive talent. He finished the evening with 12 points.
–Casey Arent: The Cali-product JUCO showed flashes of being a solid contributor, but is seeming to have trouble adjusting to the pace and flow of the D-I game. He rebounded well grabbing four in just eight minutes of action. The tallest option at 6-foot-10 he could provide some quality minutes off the bench this season.
–Depth: Six players scored in double figures for the Sooners tonight, and one of their projected starters was out. This looks like a rotation that could go eight or nine deep with a lot of players being legitimate scoring threats and each player bringing something valuable to the team in his own way.
–Up-tempo: Sooner fans at last got a glimpse of Kruger’s new fast-paced system Tuesday. The Sooners hustled up and down the floor, pushing the pace all evening. Cameron Clark especially benefited from this, as he was able to get out in transition for a couple of easy buckets, and draw some fouls. As already mentioned the quickness of Grooms will help him fit into this system like the last puzzle piece. Overall, this style suits the make-up of this team nicely, it will be interesting to follow once they get into some real action.
-Lazy Zone: One negative thing I did notice was that the Sooners zone was exploited easily at times and Northeastern hit quite a few wide open shots from beyond the arc.
For more news, updates and articles on Sooner hoops, follow me on Twitter @ChandlerVessels