Lon Kruger has a history of winning in Bramlage Coliseum, both as a player and a coach in the old Big Eight days. So in his homecoming, it would only seem fitting he would carry on the tradition. So that’s exactly what he did, only this time, to the dismay of Wildcat fans, sitting on the bench that donned the crimson and cream. Kruger brought the winning aura to Kansas, guiding the Oklahoma Sooners to their first road win of the season, and sweeping the season series with a 63-60 victory over the Wildcats.
The lead often teeter-tottered back and forth between the two teams in this tightly contested battle, and Oklahoma would need some extra help from Steven Pledger, who poured in 30 points on the evening.
When the Sooners were down one with 6 minutes to go, it was Pledger who nailed the two free throws to help them regain the lead. Then, when on the ensuing possession Martavious Irving knocked down a three for the Wildcats, it was Pledger who answered with a triple of his own and who followed that one with another, forcing a Kansas State timeout and giving the Sooners a four point lead that they would never yield. As if that weren’t already enough to land him the Sooner Player of the Game, he also grabbed five rebounds.
There were many times when it looked like a repeat of the game in College Station a week ago. That the Sooners may come so close to a road win, only to see it slip away within the final minutes of the game. Their hopes especially started to wane when the Sooners two leading scorers on the year, Andrew Fitzgerald and Pledger, had to sit down with four fouls midway through the second half. Both would later return, revitalizing the Oklahoma offense and ultimately pushing them on to a road win.
In Pledger and “Fitz’s” absence, Romero Osby stepped up into a leadership role. Though he did not score much, he made the intangible plays, and kept the Sooners hopes alive. He finished with nine points, three rebounds, and a duo of blocks and steals.
Cameron Clark continued to attract the “Slam Cam” in the win, connecting with Carl Blair and Sam Grooms for several alley-oop throw downs. He was second in scoring on the night, behind only Pledger, with 11 and managed to grab six boards to lead the way for the Sooners.
Team defense seemed ameliorated in this game, perhaps that could be credited to a rather low, at least compared to what the Sooners have been facing, 41% shooting from the field for the Wildcats. The Sooners almost always had a hand in the shooters face. Oklahomawas also able to disrupt the passing lanes for 12 steals and cause a total of 20 Wildcats miscues.
Overall, it was both a shocking and fantastic win. Though some expected a close contest, next to no one expected a win out of the Sooners tonight, but that’s exactly what they delivered. Not only was it their first road win in quite some time, it happened to come at the hand of a top 25 opponent, which would certainly be eye-popping on any team’s tournament resume. This win is big in so many ways, but mostly because it rejuvenates the Sooners hopes of going dancing in March.
The Sooners will follow this road test with an even tougher one as they travel to Lawrence to take on the Kansas Jayhawks next Wednesday.
Want more Sooners hoops? Follow me on Twitter @ChandlerVessels