The Oklahoma Sooners survived a scare in hostile territory Friday. In front of a record homecoming crowd of 6,421, the Sooners narrowly avoided an upset at the hand of the Texas-Arlington Mavericks, escaping with a 63-59 win, improving to 2-0 on the year.
Freshman Buddy Hield led the way for the Sooners, providing a scoring spark of the bench with 17 points in his first collegiate road game.
The Mavericks jumped out to an early 12-3 lead, but Hield, along with senior sharpshooter Steven Pledger, who finished the game with 11 points, helped the Sooners to jump out in front, leading by as many as 13 before settling for a 38-28 advantage at the half.
However, poor shooting plagued the Sooners in the second period of play. Oklahoma shot just 24% (5-21) from the field in the second half, and was outscored 22-15 in the first 15 minutes of the half. With just two and a half minutes to play, UTA’s Jordan Reeves hit a clutch basket to tie the game at 57 apiece, sending the crowd into a frenzy of fervid cheering. At the point, an upset seemed imminent.
Then, when the Sooners needed it most, some senior leadership arrived.
With just over two minutes to play, Steven Pledger stepped up and knocked down a dagger from three to regain the lead. All of the sudden the crowd fell silent. The Mavericks never could seem to regain their composure after allowing that basket, and the Sooners rode the wave of momentum to victory.
Defense and rebounding proved staples in the Sooner win. Oklahoma forced 17 UTA miscues and outrebounded the Mavericks 39-35, a nice accomplishment considering they battled 6-foot-10 Jordan Reeves on the boards all evening. Romero Osby led the Sooners with 11 rebounds and also chipped in 10 points for a double-double, and for that earns the Sooner Player of the Game award. Amath M’Baye hit the glass for seven boards, while Cameron Clark and Hield each grabbed 4 apiece.
The Sooners struggled to work as a cohesive unit offensively tonight however, failing to work well in a half court set. They lived and died by jump shots and, as a result, shot just 35% tonight and recorded only seven assists as a team, merely one more than Texas-Arlington’s individual leader in that category.
Obviously Hield shined in his first road game as a college basketball player, but the other freshmen didn’t share the same good fortune. Je’lon Hornbeak did score seven points, and swiped three steals playing some stellar defense, but he also turned the ball over a total of three times. Isaiah Cousins played 14 minutes and had one turnover and three personal fouls to show for it.
Overall it was a solid win for the Sooners considering the circumstances. UT-Arlington is certainly not a bad squad, coming off of a 20-win season and an NIT bid, they are actually some pretty stiff competition. Factor in a brand-new facility, the record crowd, and of course those first-road-game jitters, and you’ve got a recipe for an upset bid. The Sooners weathered the storm and senior leadership helped them to stay calm and composed near the end. Not to mention, this was a pretty valuable learning experience for the freshmen.
The Sooners will take the court again Thursday, as they open up the Old Spice Classic against the UTEP Miners. Tip-off time will be at 6 PM central time.
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