By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Oklahoma ended 2012 getting by with defense and grit. It’s added something else to its cache since the calendar flipped to 2013 — proficient shot making.
It was the difference in the Sooners’ 77-68 victory over Oklahoma State on Saturday at Lloyd Noble Center.
Every time they needed a basket, they got one — from long distance. The last 10 minutes were an exhibition in momentum-turning 3-pointers.
“Whenever they were getting ready to get over the hump, we’d make a shot to take them from four back to seven, or two back to five. The shots came at critical times,” OU coach Lon Kruger said.
Steven Pledger nailed one with 9:22 to go to stretch OU’s lead back up to five after the Cowboys had made it a one-possession game. Buddy Hield did the same 70 seconds later after the lead had been whittled down to four.
“We had to find a way to make a big basket,” Hield said. “… The 3s were dropping tonight.”
The big baskets all belonged to the Sooners in this season’s first edition of Bedlam.
The Sooners (11-3, 2-0 Big 12) picked them up from one usual suspect. Romero Osby led them with 17 points. The offensive production from Hield (15 points) and Amath M’Baye (15) were the difference.
M’Baye went on a 7-0 run by himself late in the second half that put the game away. It ended with an alley-oop dunk off an inbound pass from Sam Grooms with 4 minutes to go that put OU up by 13.
But it started with a 3-pointer from the corner that was the junior forward’s first of the season. Hield went 3 for 5 from 3-point range. Freshman guard Je’lon Hornbeak was 2 for 2 from beyond the arc.
“We didn’t expect them to make that many 3s. We didn’t expect the players who made 3s to make them,” said OSU guard Markel Brown, who scored a game-high 19 points.
The Sooners were 8 for 13 from 3-point range en route to a 43.1 percent (25-for-58) shooting effort. The Cowboys (11-4, 1-2) couldn’t keep up. They were 6 for 21 from 3-point range, but 0 for 9 in the second half. OSU shot 39.3 percent (22 for 56) for the game. Le’Bryan Nash added 12 points for the Cowboys. Phil Forte added 12.
The weight of playing from behind and with its best player — guard Marcus Smart — limited to 27 minutes with foul trouble were burdens the Sooners didn’t face.
OU led by as many as 14 in the first half and OSU never had the ball with a chance to tie the game in the second half.
The victory was the Sooners’ fourth in a row and marks their first 2-0 start in Big 12 play since 2009.
“Any time we can get off to good start just reinforces what we have done in practice, of course, and we feel good about that,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “Everything is a just a building process and we feel better, a little more confident and the guys are trusting each other a little bit more. We’re still trying to understand how tough each possession has to be, and we have a ways to go, but we are making progress.”
For a team that’s made winning razor-tight defensive struggles a habit, Saturday’s Bedlam victory was a major leap. They fought off the Cowboys on both ends of the floor.
“We fought back, but when we fought back, they made some shots,” OSU coach Travis Ford said. “You just look at the percentages, and they played well.”
John ShinnFollow me @firstname.lastname@example.org
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